To put it simply, Tiny Furniture is a film about post-college malaise. After graduation and a break-up, 22-year-old Aura (writer/director Lena Dunham) comes home to New York intending to move in with her best friend who has yet to arrive from their Ohio college. In the meantime, she returns to her mother’s apartment/art studio in Tribeca with an irritatingly successful 17-year-old sister (who has re-purposed Aura’s old bedroom into a “special space”), her quietly loving artist-mom, a few old friends, and two guys who may or may not be boyfriend material. We’ve seen this story countless times, but rarely has it been this stark and honest.
Using a stationary camera, Dunham captures snapshots of of these situations and characters with a confident eye and dry sense of humor. We see her fight with her sister, sulk with her mother, barely stay conscious at a new day-hostess job, and awkwardly attempt to woo a couple of guys. Desperate for anything, she lays everything out on the table. Though it lacks any memorable narrative hook and is populated with characters whom we can relate to more in theory than in reality, it’s that emotional frankness that makes Aura’s story one worth watching. Though not much changes for Aura during the film, Tiny Furniture grabs you strongly enough that after it ends, you hope something will.
Dunham has made a quiet, honest film that understands well the desperation, loneliness, and uncertainty of that time before total independence and after your old bedroom has been re-purposed, so simply calling it a film about post-college malaise may seem reductive. But what Dunham also understands is that sometimes, perhaps most of the time, you just want to call it “post-college malaise,” tell everyone to shut up, and figure out how the hell you’re going to move on.