Taglines: Aura would like you to know that she is having a very, very hard time.
Having been dumped by her boyfriend after graduation, Aura (Lena Dunham) moves back home to her mother’s loft in TriBeCa for the summer. Aura’s plan is to save money until her friend Frankie finishes her degree at Oberlin College and can move to the city so that they can be roommates. Aura’s mother Siri is a successful photographer who takes pictures of scenes using tiny furniture. She is aided by Candice, her assistant, and Aura’s teenage sister, Nadine. Siri is initially supportive of her daughter’s return home while Nadine appears condescending toward her. Upon moving back into her old room, Nadine commands Aura to replace a lightbulb. While searching for one, Aura stumbles upon her mother’s journals from when she was Aura’s age, and she begins reading them clandestinely.
Shortly after arriving home, Aura goes to a party where she meets Jed, a mildly successful filmmaker who puts his work on YouTube. She also runs into her childhood friend Charlotte (Jemima Kirke), a recovering drug addict. She and Aura return to Charlotte’s apartment that night, where they smoke marijuana. Charlotte also helps Aura land an $11/hour (no tips) job taking reservations at a restaurant. The news that she has landed a job is quickly overshadowed by the fact that Nadine has won a prestigious poetry prize for high school students. Aura begins to feel anxious in comparison to her put-together younger sister and resents the close bond between Nadine and their mother.
Depressed, Aura begins to spend time with Jed, who is couchsurfing as his agent tries to land him a TV development deal, and flirts with Keith (David Call), a junior chef at the restaurant. When her mother and sister leave for a week in order to tour colleges, Aura invites Jed to stay with her. Together they discover that Aura’s pet hamster Gilda has died, and they store it in the freezer in a plastic bag until Aura can bury her.
Jed and Aura ultimately neglect to take care of the apartment while drinking most of Siri’s wine and eating frozen dinners. Siri eventually confronts Aura about these things upon her return, which Aura first lies about before throwing a tantrum in front of her mother and sister. Despite this, Aura later asks her mom to let Jed extend his visit by having him stay on an inflatable mattress in her room. She is eventually forced to kick him out after he annoys Siri with his entitled attitude.
Meanwhile, Aura’s flirtation with Keith hits a snag when she discovers he has a girlfriend and only seems interested in her ability to obtain prescription pills through Charlotte. After Keith stands her up when they make plans to get high together, Aura impulsively quits her restaurant job. Later that night, Nadine has a party in their loft while their mother is out for the night. Aura becomes upset, ostensibly by the number of drunk high schoolers at the party, and calls Charlotte to help deal with the situation. Charlotte, however, only enjoys the party for herself. Nadine eventually confronts Aura over her immaturity, yelling at her to grow up. The next morning, Aura’s mother finds the frozen hamster in the freezer, which Aura promptly disposes of. Aura also tells a bewildered Frankie that she no longer can move in with her, offering the excuse that her mother needs her too much.
Written, directed and starring Lena Dunham, Tiny Furniture explores the depths of romantic humiliation and the heights of post-college confusion; the darkest parts of the big city’s bright lights and the newest ways to tell the oldest story in the book. The film also stars Dunham’s real-life sister, Grace, and real-life mother, Laurie Simmons, the celebrated artist and photographer. Tiny Furniture was beautifully shot by Jody Lee Lipes (Afterschool, NY Export: Opus Jazz), the emerging cinematographer and filmmaker who was named by Filmmaker Magazine as one of their 25 new faces of 2009.
In Tiny Furniture, Lena Dunham plays Aura, just graduated from college and broken up with her boyfriend, who returns to the family apartment in Tribeca, where she lives with her mother, Siri, a famous photographer of tiny furniture, and her prettier and cooler sister, Nadine. (They are played by Dunham’s real-life photographer mother, Laurie Simmons, and real-life sister, Grace Dunham.) Aura wants to be a filmmaker—she posts exhibitionist videos on YouTube—but is more than a little adrift.
She spends the movie doing not much at all: bickering with her family, hanging out with her druggy-spoiled-abrasive BFF, Charlotte (scene-stealing Jemima Kirke), making sorta friends with an aspiring comic, Jed (Alex Karpovsky), and halfheartedly working as the hostess at a restaurant whose sous-chef Keith (David Call) she finds hot. Aura is, put simply, caught in young-person’s limbo. A child of privilege, she’s equal parts alienation and entitlement, ambition and confusion.
Tiny Furniture is a 2010 American independent comedy-drama film written, directed by, and starring Lena Dunham. The film premiered at South by Southwest, where it won the award for Best Narrative Feature, screened at such festivals as Maryland Film Festival, and was released theatrically in the United States on November 12, 2010. Dunham’s own mother, the artist Laurie Simmons, plays Aura’s mother, while her real sister, Grace, plays Aura’s on-screen sibling. The actors Jemima Kirke and Alex Karpovsky would also appear in Dunham’s television series Girls.
The film was shot on the Canon EOS 7D. Filming took place in TriBeCa and Lower Manhattan. The film was shot in November 2009. Dunham says she wrote a “tight script” to which the actors were faithful. The soundtrack included music by Teddy Blanks of The Gaskets, Domino (Domino Kirke, and Jordan Galland), Rebecca Schiffman and Sonia’s Party! & The Everyone’s Invited Band. The soundtrack is downloadable for free on the movie website.
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Tiny Furniture (2010)
Directed by: Lena Dunham
Starring: Lena Dunham, Laurie Simmons, Grace Dunham, Jemima Kirke, Amy Seimetz, Alex Karpovsky, Merritt Wever, Jody Lee Lipes, Sarah Sophie Flicker, Charlotte Istel, Garland Hunter, David Call
Screenplay by: Lena Dunham, Jody Lee Lipes,
Cinematography by: Jody Lee Lipes
Film Editing by: Lance Edmands
Set Decoration by: Chris Trujillo
Art Direction by: Jade Healy
Music by: Teddy Blanks
Distributed by: IFC Films
Release Date: November 12, 2010