Doin’ the Postgraduate Shuffle in Tiny Furniture

11/10/2010 4:00 AM |

Tiny Furniture

Directed by Lena Dunham

Matriculating from SXSW with a sheaf of recommendations, Lena Dunham’s postgraduate shuffle gains traction from the director/actor’s odd comic presence and her feel for developmental purgatory. Aura (Dunham) goes from Oberlin to New York, but that just means living at home, with her indulgent artist mother (Laurie Simmons) and know-it-all sister (Grace Dunham) who’s frustratingly full of artificial high-school momentum. In the angular white Tribeca apartment (shot as static by Jody Lee Lipes), these privileged run-on days are finding-your-feet shapeless, an hourly restaurant hostess job mostly a way of finding structure. Two counterexamples of coping (or not) come in the forms of a wily date-turned-houseguest gunning for comedy-writing interviews and an unavoidable high-school friend who seems to have adopted AbFab minus the irony as her house style.

Keeping cutesy at bay, Dunham is the film’s center-with-no-center, playing a “sad sack”(as the director described herself in one interview, regarding romance) whose quizzical, borderline Sancho Panza affect elicits slight distaste more than sympathy. Which seems just right (and shrewd, given the milieu): Dunham’s writing works hand in glove in fostering a viewer’s barbed identification. Especially hard to classify is an Aura tantrum—which her sister hilariously makes no attempt to avoid laughing at—that’s one of the stranger, more baffling messes to turn up on screen lately. Dunham, as you may have heard, is walking through a familiar floorplan here: the movie family are her own, the house home turf. But despite threatening to get bogged down in its own inertia, it’s a good snapshot of feeling small.

Opens November 12