MVFF: Tiny Furniture (A-)

You’re going to hear a lot about filmmaker Lena Dunham in the next few years. Her Tiny Furniture is a great film, and truly extraordinary when you consider it’s a first feature for which she is writer, director and lead actress. On one hand Tiny Furniture is a very personal autobiographical film. Dunham’s sister and mother play her character’s sister and mother in the movie and it was shot in their own house for only $25,000 ($45,000 total after post-production). But this film isn’t handicapped as a low-budget picture. It’s as good in every respect as any high-budget drama/comedy.

Dunham’s character, Aura, returns home fresh out of college not quite knowing what to do with herself. Her boyfriend of two years decided to head to Colorado. She has plans to share an apartment with a female college friend, but for now she’s going to live with her artist-at-home mother and teenage sister. Men? Jobs? Friends? Family? It’s all up for grabs, and we watch Aura test the limits in all categories in her first few weeks back home.

The script is brilliant. It’s on a par with Michael Arndt’s Little Miss Sunshine. The dialog is as taught and realistic as Diablo Cody’s Juno. During Q&A I asked Dunham if she ever considered casting someone else in the lead role, but as she explained, since the mother was played by her mother and the sister by her sister, that probably wouldn’t work. Ultimately Dunham is going to have to make a choice. I don’t think she’ll be able to write/direct forever. Her directorial skills are clearly strong enough that she’s likely to go in that direction. It’s too bad she can’t just clone herself, because her writing skills are every bit as good. Her acting performance was also terrific in this film, but you can only go so far playing roles that are so autobiographical.

Keep your eye open for this one. It’s worth going out of your way to see. BTW, the film is much more energetic than the rather lethargic trailer embedded below. Tiny Furniture was picked up by IFC First Take and will have theatrical openings in New York in mid-November and L.A. in early December. Lena Dunham is already at work on new projects including one for HBO Films.

Tiny Furniture Trailer from Lena Dunham on Vimeo.

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