December 25, 2013 Film ReviewsUpdates

Completing a university degree is by no means an easy feat. But nothing can quite prepare you for what lies ahead, post graduation.

In Tiny Furniture, Lena Dunham (Girls) tackles the ordeal of readjusting to life beyond the confines of the university, including alleviating withdrawal symptoms from campus life, coping with the stark reality of unemployment, surviving the ensuing monotony of an intolerably tedious job and mitigating the awkwardness of negotiating existing ties while fostering and maintaining new relationships.

As the film’s writer/director, Dunham also plays its female protagonist, Aura, a college graduate who returns to her family’s Tribeca home after completing a degree in film theory, only to find herself in a tense relationship with her mother, Siri (Laurie Simmons), a successful artist and photographer; and her younger sister Nadine (Grace Dunham), a precocious and acclaimed poet bound for college. Broke, unemployed and newly (depressingly) single, Aura reunites with her sarcastic and cynical lifelong friend, Charlotte (Jemima Kirke), and, through her, lands a pittance-paying role as a restaurant hostess.

If the menial drudgery of work and the strained dynamics of family life are not burdensome enough, Aura’s predicament is exacerbated when she crosses paths with two new men in her life: Jed (Alex Karpovsky), an arrogant, unemployed YouTube video artist whom she befriends at a party; and her co-worker Keith (David Call), a handsome, pill-popping chef with whom she becomes infatuated. Both men turn out to be to self-absorbed and disastrous romantic interests: Jed, sexually unresponsive, financially parasitic and emotionally indifferent; Keith, sexually responsive but smugly unreliable and flagrantly insensitive.

Life instils its toughest and most taxing education, Aura discovers, once we have left the cosy nest, the nurturing familiarity and the insular security of the university. In one of the film’s funniest scenes – an argument between Aura and her mother concerning missing bottles of wine – the visibly emotional graduate breaks down and defiantly retaliates:

I just got out of school. This is a very hard time for me. If you didn’t notice I had my heart broken, okay? And I’m a young, young person who is trying very hard and I don’t know if you know what it’s like to have a job. Did you ever have a job that wasn’t just taking pictures of stupid, tiny crap?

If there is a lesson to be learnt here, then Tiny Furniture perhaps suggests that while a university degree can impart wisdom, it can also leave you none the wiser – struggling to dispense with existing baggage while only continuing to add to your unwieldy collection.



– Dr. Varga Hosseini