Film & TV

Mother and Child Reunion in Lena Dunham's "Tiny Furniture"

Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture is a comedy of youthful confusion that gets its kick not only for evoking a world of unromantic hookups, casual BJs, and iPhone porn, but for satirizing New York's bourgeois bohemia. Newly graduated from an artsy Midwestern college, Aura arrives at mother Siri's immaculate white-on-white Tribeca loft. Mom, a photography artist (as opposed to a photographer), is engrossed in a shoot involving kid sister Nadine, and barely notices Aura's reappearance — precipitating the movie's first round of sibling bitchiness. That the coolly self-possessed Siri is played by Dunham's mother and the loft's owner, noted photo-artist Laurie Simmons (the movie's title refers to her props); Nadine by her actual sister Grace Dunham; and Aura by the filmmaker herself pushes Tiny Furniture even further into psychodrama than such boho-autobiographical precursors as Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale and Aza Jacobs' Momma's Man. To the degree that it has a narrative, Tiny Furniture proceeds from one Aura-humiliation to the next. It's been noted that Dunham, who is no one's idea of a Barbie and generally dresses (or undresses) to accentuate her frumpiness, has a remarkable absence of vanity —or is it a more highly evolved form of narcissism? The movie's title may refer to Mom's immaculate dollhouse world, but the world itself is Aura's. There's a built-in wink: As convincingly hapless as Aura appears, Dunham never lets you forget that she "grew up" to direct this film.

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J. Hoberman
Contact: J. Hoberman