I love movies. That’s part of why I love writing for Flixist so much. However, after posting my Warrior’s Way review, I noticed that all my reviews thus far have been fairly positive, even if the other reviewers hated them. I began to worry my readers wouldn’t take me seriously when I gave a glowing review to a movie everybody else in the world shunned. Thankfully, I got to review the independent film Tiny Furniture. It was not just bad, it was terrible.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely thrilled that a frumpy girl at the ripe, young age of 23 can create a movie that is so well-received. Writer-director-star Lena Dunham created a 98-minute film that won an award for best feature film at this year’s SXSW. Sadly, I just don’t get it, and found myself waiting 98 minutes for the point, or someone to cheer for, or even a character that wasn’t entirely unlikeable. Join me after the jump as I dissect everything that went wrong in this movie.
Director: Lena Dunham
Release Date: March 15, 2010 (SXSW), November 12, 2010
Tiny Furniture follows the non-adventures of Dunham’s character Aura who comes back home after graduating college and getting dumped by her boyfriend. Her photographer mother (played by her photographer mother, artist Laurie Simmons) is more or less happy to see her daughter while her generic younger sister (played by her younger sister Grace) is none too pleased. Claiming to be trying to ‘find’ herself, Aura gets a job as a daytime hostess at a trendy restaurant, hangs out with her obnoxiously British friend Charlotte (Jemima Kirke), dodges her college BFF’s calls, and becomes involved with two of the biggest douchebag guys ever captured on film, Jed (Alex Karpovsky) and Keith (David Call).
The multitude of problems in this film stem from the fact that there’s not much actually happening, and with intensely unlikeable characters, there was no charm to be found in this slice of life. Despite the fact that Aura puts him up, the internet-famous Jed is rude, pretentious, and completely ungrateful. Where I was expecting some sort of self-aggrandizing relationship with the fedora-clad Keith, instead he was only interested in Aura for the pills she can get for him. The fact that she does pills comes out of left field and only serves to keep Keith in Aura’s orbit. After her mother becomes upset with her for letting Jed sleep in her mother’s bed and drink all her wine while she was away, Aura throws a tantrum that took the character from unlikeable to irredeemable in my book. The worst part about this is that it occurs about halfway through the movie. By far, the most rage-inducing part of the film (there are a lot) is when Aura blows her college BFF Frankie (Nurse Jackie’s Merritt Wever) off after they were supposed to get a place together. Frankie comes to the city, tracks Aura down at the gallery her Youtube video is being shown in, and confronts her, only to be flippantly blown off when Keith shows up. Aura surrounds herself with jerks, assholes, and idiots and pushes away the only people who actually deserve her love and friendship.
The performances themselves, on the whole, feel like they were given by pod people. It seemed like Dunham was trying to emulate how people really talk and she missed the mark. Conversations go on too long, too many little conversational intricacies are failed to be replicated, and most deliveries are executed with a lack of humanity. Performances range from awkward to downright painful, and I found myself struggling just to get through the movie with my sanity intact.
All was not lost, as the soundtrack was pretty good. I felt that the music was wasted on the film, and could easily picture it in a far more likable film. In his review, Andres mentions the cinematography, and I have to agree. The camerawork was terrific, and again, should have been capturing a far better film for the obvious effort involved.
I love independent movies, and from the description of this movie, I was hoping for a quirky, charming movie similar to Me and You and Everyone We Know. Instead, I was presented with an abrasive, unlikeable trudge through the life of an bratty, aimless hipster. The movie’s tag line is “Aura would like you to know that she is having a very, very hard time.” She let me know, at length, but I just couldn’t bring myself to care.
There are a handful of things saving this from a much lower grade: the music and cinematography were great; Merritt Wever’s performance was the only person’s who was above average; and the simple fact that, despite its many, many flaws, Lena Dunham got her movie out there. You have to walk before you can run, and hopefully Tiny Furniture was just baby steps for her.
Andres Bolivar: This film is absolute dribble. Other than being a testament to the Canon 7D,Tiny Furniture has no redeeming qualities to it whatsoever. I’m all for indie existential pieces, but the plot and characters are annoying to no end. It’s the kind of film that intellectuals will swoon over at rooftop parties, swilling cheap wine and sandwiched between conversations about Nietzsche and Woody Allen. It’s amazingly frustrating that this won the Jury Prize at SXSW for “Best Narrative Feature”, and frankly I feel sorry for anybody who actually relates to this film. Overall Score: 28 – Painful