Saturday, April 06, 2013

Tiny Furniture

Written, directed, and starring Lena Duhnam, Tiny Furniture is the story about a college graduate whose life falls apart as she returns home to live with her mother and younger sister as she seeks to try to find herself in post-college life. The film is an exploration in the world of a young adult trying to find a sense of direction as she feels shunned by her own mother and sister in their Tribeca loft in New York City. Also starring Grace Duhnam, Laurie Simmons, Jemima Kirke, and Alex Karpovsky. Tiny Furniture is a humorous and engaging film from Lena Duhnam.

Post-college life is a period in time when a person has to figure out what to do just as they’re to emerge into adulthood. In this film, it is about a young woman named Aura (Lena Duhnam) who had just broken up with her boyfriend and has no idea what to do despite getting a college degree in film studies. Yet, she returns to her Tribeca loft where her mother Siri (Laurie Simmons) runs a photography studio while her younger sister Nadine (Grace Duhnam) is a high school student. Neither Siri nor Nadine are happy about Aura returning as Aura struggles to figure out her next move as she befriends a video artist named Jed (Alex Karpovsky) and works as a hostess where she befriends a chef named Keith (David Call). Still, Aura isn’t sure about the direction of her life as her longtime friend Charlotte (Jemima Kirke) tries to help her out but often in the worst possible ways.

Duhnam’s screenplay does carry a lot of realism into the anxieties of post-college life and having to move back home. Yet, it is presented with this mix of low-key humor and light drama as it has that element of natural awkwardness that is in Aura. While both Siri and Nadine do care for Aura, they have their own lives to deal with as Aura is just someone who could barely contribute to what they’re doing. Though Aura does get a job, it is an unremarkable one as Charlotte later tells her about the shit paycheck after Aura took on the job. The characters that Duhnam creates are people who all have goals though some like Jed is having similar struggles like Aura to get his work off the ground. Though they don’t sleep together, Aura does have Jed crash at her place much to her mother’s chagrin.

Duhnam’s direction is quite straightforward as she shoots the film on location in Tribeca and Lower Manhattan as well as the fact that the film is shot in an actual loft. With its low-budget approach to filmmaking where there is an air of improvisation, it is mostly controlled as Duhnam does create a lot of interesting framing to help explore Aura’s struggle. With the use of webcams and devices such as YouTube to help tell the story as Aura is trying to make it as a filmmaker, Duhnam allows that sense of amateurism to play out something that feels real. It’s one of the elements of comedy that makes the film unique as well as some of the drama since it does play into the idea of growing pains as it concerns a young woman taking baby steps towards adulthood. Overall, Duhnam creates a very fascinating and funny film about growing up.

Cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes does nice work with the film‘s cinematography as it‘s quite straightforward for many of the film‘s interior and daytime exteriors along with some wonderful lighting schemes for some of the location scenes at night. Editor Lance Edwards does terrific work with the editing as it‘s quite rhythmic to play out some of the film‘s humor and drama while keeping things simple and to the point with the editing. Art director Jade Healy and set decorator Chris Trujillo do excellent work with the look of the loft that Siri works and lives at to play out her personality as a photographer.

The sound work of Micah Bloomberg is wonderful for the intimacy that is created in the scenes at the loft as well as some of the low-key moments in some of the film‘s location scenes. The film’s music by Teddy Blanks is brilliant as it‘s playful with its melodic-driven piano tracks that is mixed with some folk arrangements. Music supervisor Annie Pearlman creates a fantastic soundtrack of mostly indie and underground music from Teddy Blanks’ band the Gaskets, Domino, and other obscure acts.

The film’s cast is amazing as it features some appearances from Amy Seimetz as an old friend of Aura in Ashlynn, Merritt Weaver as Aura’s college friend Frankie, Garland Hunter as the family neighbor Noelle, Isen Ritchie as Noelle’s son Jacob, and David Call as the attractive sous chef Keith that Aura falls for. Alex Karpovsky is very funny as the video artist Jed who befriends Aura as they share their struggles to make it in film while Jemima Kirke is brilliant as the flaky yet well-meaning Charlotte as she nearly steals the film from everyone.

Grace Duhnam is wonderful as Aura’s teenager sister Nadine who is dealing with Aura’s presence as she wants to do the things as a teenager. Laurie Simmons is excellent as Aura’s mother Siri who is trying to understand her daughter’s issues while trying to do her own work. Finally, there’s Lena Duhnam in a superb performance as Aura where Duhnam mixes a natural sense of humor to her awkwardness as well as someone who is still a child in some ways as it’s a remarkable performance from the newcomer.

Tiny Furniture is an extraordinary film from Lena Duhnam. Featuring some wonderful supporting work from real-life family members Laurie Simmons and Grace Duhnam as well as future associates of the TV show Girls in Jemima Kirke and Alex Karpovsky. It’s a very compelling film that explores a young woman going through growing pains in the aftermath of college life and the struggle to find herself while returning home. In the end, Tiny Furniture is a marvelous film from Lena Duhnam.

© thevoid99 2013


Alex Withrow said...

Great review man. I really do love this movie.

"Duhnam’s screenplay does carry a lot of realism into the anxieties of post-college life and having to move back home." That's a line I couldn't agree more with, and I think that is why this film, and Girls, succeeds so well. For better or worse, it's real.

thevoid99 said...

I do like Lena Duhnam and what she has to say though I had mixed feelings about the way she ended the last season of Girls. This film is definitely proof that she is indeed talented and a unique voice.