22-year old Aura (Lena Dunham) returns home from university to her artist mother's Manhattan loft with, a useless film theory degree, 357 hits on her YouTube page, a boyfriend who's left her to find himself, a dying hamster and her tail between her legs. Luckily, her train wreck childhood best friend never left home, the restaurant down the block is hiring and ill-advised romantic options lurk around every corner. Aura quickly careens into her old/new life. Surrounded on all sides by what she could become, Aura just wants someone to tell her who she is.
Aura is a 24-year-old graduate fresh off from film school and with no prospects, no job, and no apartment to claim as her own, she moves back into her parents’ Tribeca loft, which is really a photography studio of her mom’s. There, she reconnects with her mother and teenage sister, only to learn that she is the worthless member of the family. Her mother photographs doll houses, her sister models shoes, and Aura? She just exists and that’s the worst thing of all. This is ‘Tiny Furniture’, writer-director Lena Dunham’s first foray into independent film making, and everything about it screams ‘indie’.
In ‘Tiny Furniture’, Lena Dunham casts herself as Aura, her real-life photo artist-mother (Laurie Simmons) and real-life sister (Grace Dunham) as her family you’d think Dunham’s made an autobiographical project. Dunham shot ‘Tiny Furniture’ in her real-life home as well and with a high-definition and expensive Canon still camera. Truth: both Aura and Dunham are fresh film school grads.
As the movie shows, Dunham is not exactly a destitute, both in her upbringing and choice of camera – she had a privileged life in New York and she happens to find an affinity with the ‘artist’ life. And this privilege is everywhere in ‘Tiny Furniture’.
Watching it, you’re made aware of the problems affluent people also endure and the way they try to resolve it, or on a basic level, react to it. As Dunham’s Aura, she whines and feels sorry for herself for not knowing the direction she’s heading, and doesn’t even know how to begin. Aura is a slacker, she knows it, the people around her know it, and we know it too. Dunham plays Aura with polarizing flair; one moment she’s likable, the next she’s annoying.
But there’s something quite refreshing about ‘Tiny Furniture’, especially with the type of leading woman Lena Dunham wants to portray. Aura is the anti-thesis of every woman in film: she doesn’t have a perfect body, she’s not at all ‘together’, and her ambition is close to nil. Women can be equally as slacker as the men – that’s the reality.