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Tiny Furniture

a film by Lena Dunham

If Woody Allen were to make a Mumblecore film, it would probably be a lot like Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture - at least that is probably what Lena Dunham would like to think. The filmmaker even pushes that idea forward by having one character reading a Woody Allen book throughout the film. Yet, Woody Allen influences aside (which by the way, includes camerawork that is very Allenesque in its unobtrusiveness), Dunham's film is pure Mumblecore (casting friends and family alike - her mother and sister play her mother and sister here), and in being pure Mumblecore one is assured to hear a lot of whining about how life is unfair and the future holds nothing good. The genre, or whatever one may call it, is nihilist cinema at its very (mumbling) core, full of twentysomething slackers who do nothing but complain about how the world treats them after their supposed halcyon college days - and Tiny Furniture is no exception. It is, like Mumblecore itself, a cacophony of Gen Y droning indeed.

Yet, this whining and droning taken for granted, Dunham's film rises above (in certain ways) the typical Mumblecore, and like its worthy predecessors (and the best of the so-called genre) Mutual Appreciation, Hannah Takes the Stairs and Beeswax, gives us something more than mere whining for whining's sake - though there is still much of that as well. Okay, perhaps there really isn't much of anything happening here, and perhaps the characters are rather shallow (Mumblecore stalwart Alex Karpovsky proves once again that he is the most boring, and most irritating member of any cast), and perhaps none of the cast is exactly ready for any sort of acting accolades (only one member of the cast, Jemima Kirke as the acerbic, and quite funny Charlotte, is someone worth watching), and perhaps Dunham's film cannot really play with the big boys, destined to be stuck at the kiddie table like most of the Mumblecore crowd, but there is still something oddly fascinating about watching these shallow, inconsiderate and immature losers go about life for ninety minutes or so. Much like watching and becoming mesmerized by the windshield wipers on a city bus, one cannot look away, even when one is complaining about how miserable these characters, and by definition, the people playing them, are. A warped kind of fun, but fun nonetheless. [01/04/11]

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