In her second feature, Lena Dunham showcases her storytelling strengths as a multihyphenate navigating a New York of underappreciated privilege.
In American cinema, the period of between when college ends and real life begins has been a rich one for storytelling. Stuck in stasis, failing to launch; that independent in-between has been depicted in Ben Stiller’s Reality Bites (1994), Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) and Greg Mottola’s Adventureland (2009) to name a few. It’s where filmmaker Lena Dunham – best known for HBO hit Girls (2012–17) – finds her footing with her sophomore feature Tiny Furniture (2010).
As the writer and director, Dunham also stars as Aura: a recent film school graduate who has little to her name besides a YouTube video. Forced to move back in with her mother – an artist famed for taking pictures of tiny furniture – and her younger sister in their New York loft, Aura struggles to navigate the possibilities of her future.
“Why do I feel such affection for Tiny Furniture?”, Roger Ebert asked in his review from 2010. “It’s a well-crafted film, for one thing… it shows a command of style and purpose; Dunham knows what she wants and how she needs to get it, and succeeds.” Coming so early in her career, Tiny Furniture represents all the promise of what Dunham could be, sparking comparisons to the work of Woody Allen and Nora Ephron. She – like Aura – navigates a world of underappreciated privilege, with all of Dunham’s strengths as a storyteller on full display here. Although better known for her acting and writing, direction is the production role where her talent shines brightest and it’s because of that Tiny Furniture connects.