Working through a random backlog of movies I've missed, I finally got around to watching Tiny Furniture. Released in 2010, it was directed and written by Lena Dunham who I follow on Twitter despite never having watched any of her work. It's a low budget indie that also stars Dunham…and her mom and sister (playing her mom and sister), and some other amateur actors. But man, for about 98% of the cast, I wouldn't have guessed any of them were related or weren't experienced actors.
It's kind of a plotless movie, which makes sense as a reflection of Aura, the protagonist. She's just finished with college and returns home from Ohio to Tribeca to live with her mom until she gets her life figured out. Her "hippie boyfriend" dumped her to "build a shrine to his ancestors" and while she has a desire to pursue filmmaking, all she has to her name appears to be some odd YouTube videos and a hamster.
So Aura goes about her life, taking a low paying job she hates, reconnecting with old friends, and generally trying to figure out what happens after the "post-graduate delirium." I don't know if everyone who graduates experiences this, or if this film is sparked from the general feeling of malaise a lot of people felt when they left college between 2008 and 2011. But it sure felt like it captured something I experienced, even if it wasn't at all HOW I experienced it. I draw almost no parallels to Aura's story. In fact, I'm nearly the opposite in every way. But I still felt like I identified with it. The film seems like it hovers between the quiet disappointment when the world doesn't really change after college, and the perceived sense of entitlement young people have. At times I wanted to yell at Aura to just go do something already, and other times I knew she was doing the best she could.
Social commentary aside, Tiny Furniture is almost entirely about relationships. There's a couple of male suitors. There's a college friend who wants to move in with Aura. And there's a longtime friend with a British accent who feels like the opposite of Aura. All of these secondary characters are well-developed, but they're best served as a reflection to Aura's personality, or lack thereof. She's more observant than active.
The most interesting relationships are between Aura, her mom (Siri) and sister (Nadine). Nadine is younger, prettier, and smarter. Siri is a successful photographer who takes pictures of tiny furniture (THE TITLE, WOO). The three of them appear to have very open relationships with each other that include a lot of screaming. But after every blow-out, there's a reset. Nobody holds a grudge, and that dynamic was something that really made me enjoy the film. It feels like every mother-daughter relationship I ever watch is about a mom and a kid who stopped understanding each other a million years ago. They fight, they make up, but they still don't really get it. When Siri and Aura fight, I feel like Siri understands what's going on in Aura's head. She says some mom stuff, but you come to realize that she's never forgotten what it was like to be an unsuccessful directionless artist in Tribeca. Forgiveness after missteps is almost unspoken. It kinda feels like it can't be real, except for the realism you get when you can successfully direct your mom and yourself in a scene shot in your mom's loft. Which goes well with the realism of Aura's character. She feels like a real person, not a caricature of a young adult written by someone else. She looks and acts like someone you know.
I really liked this film, and I wonder how much more of this character I could take before I tipped the scales from empathy and understanding to "come on already, jesus, you're a grown ass woman." In any case, I really enjoy Dunham's writing style and I'll check out Girls sometime probably. Not sure I'll enjoy spending so much time with characters like this, but worth a shot.
(And curious about the tiny budget and crew, I suspended my non-caring about cameras and looked up what this was shot on. 7D, doesn't look like it at all. Probably because it was well lit. And on primes. And in focus.)
I had this in my Amazon Prime watchlist for the longest time, because I initially liked Girls a lot. Then as Girls slowly started to make me question Lena Dunham's creative decisions, I just never got around ot watching it. But then again, I really didn't know what it was about. Your description makes me a little more intrigued. Also, this came out before Dunham let Girls get to her head.
Bizarre side note: I talk pretty negatively about Girls, yet I've seen every episode, if that says anything...?
It seemed to me (from reading the synopsis of the show because I still haven't seen it) like Girls could have been a continuation of what happens after Tiny Furniture, in a slightly different parallel universe. It's got the same basic setting and shares some cast members so I dunno. If you originally liked Girls, you should watch the film to see the origin of the whole thing right?