Lena Dunham, creator of the HBO series, Girls, (something which I don’t know about; I’m a man’s man; I don’t have time for that show, I’m too busy eating a turkey leg) made what seems to me an autobiographical film, and further, something of a commencement speech for those college graduates eager to dive into life. Dunham, also writer and director, stars as Aura, an intellectual girl going through a post-graduate delirium. She returns anew to her home after college and after her break-up with her boyfriend; she’s essentially set up for a loss from the beginning. Aura has that bad taste in her mouth when she finally catches up with her family, sister Nadine and mother Siri (played by their real-life counterparts), who are too utterly caught up in their own successes to help Aura and her lack thereof.
Her sister is a partying, scholarship-winning wunderkind, while her mother is a successful artist/photographer who’s been admittedly riding on that success since Aura’s age – and both represent two ends of the age spectrum who have accomplished more than Aura and her liberal arts degree. In an attempt to resurrect her life’s direction, she tries spending time with her sister and mother, but finds them inaccessible and unwilling to acknowledge her.
She’s spurned, so she ends up at a party where she meets Jed, a rising YouTube celeb, and Charlotte, a long-lost friend of Aura’s; and gets a dead-end hostess job where she meets Keith. Aura bounces her time between all three, but eventually cuts it off with all of them after being screwed over one too many times. After a while, it occurs the thought that they were presented as clear failures as adults, antagonistic to the forward-progress thinking Aura tries to sustain throughout the film, like Ghosts of Christmas Future if Aura can’t get her feet off the ground. So she turns to her mother’s diary from her age as a hopeful guide, which turns out to be just as unreliable.
Time passes and Aura’s best-friend with whom she was going to be moving in with, gets a call from emotionally-stuck Aura professing how much her mother and sister need her to stay. The phone call itself is average enough, but I got a little teary-eyed (don’t worry, I did like 20 push-ups afterwards) given the times we see Aura try to sleep in her mom’s bed and denied, her lonely cries in the shower, sitting in her mom’s lap so she can be held. She doesn’t want to leave her family’s house – can’t because she needs their support, having to revert back to being a child, dependent.
The future is not any more certain for Aura at the end than it was at the beginning, but there’s a foretelling when we watch Aura eventually get accepted into bed with her mom, beginning to hear about the frivolity of her young adulthood Aura read about in the diary. But her mother becomes distracted from the ticking of the clock. Aura accommodates and moves the clock to the other end of the house. She comes back into the bedroom and asks, “But you can still hear it a little bit?” We wince. We can still hear it. The inference can be made that Aura, her sister, her mother, everyone is always getting older and so we have to make something of ourselves before that time runs out.
Tiny Furniture as a title refers to the miniatures her mother uses in photographs, though I don’t have the energy to delve into the profundity of it all. I’m not apologetic.
Anyway, good to know that the film has that low-budget vibe, but luckily doesn’t make us have to wade through all that indie quirk pretense, and goes straight for the jugular of that quarter-life crisis that marks the threshold to adulthood. It’s an impassioned piece of filmmaking, with the same gut honesty as one’s own diary.