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Tiny Furniture and HBO’s “Girls”

April 28, 2012

Three weeks ago HBO premiered their critically acclaimed newest show “Girls.” Initially, I thought it looked pretty bland but the astounding reviews HBO continuously promoted piqued my interest. A bout with insomnia led me to check it out and about five minutes in I was pissed off at the type of show it seemed to be. “Girls” revolves around Hannah and her group of over-privileged twentysomething friends living it up in New York. In the shows pilot, Hannah is told by her parents that she is being cut off financially. Woe is the babied 24-year-old Hannah who now must figure out how to continue her trendy lifestyle without the help of her parent’s money.

As a twentysomething whose mom’s 16th birthday present was a trip around the city to put in job applications, a show about fortunate self-centered bohemian youths outraged me. Yet for some reason I couldn’t turn “Girls” off and was even intrigued enough to watch the following episode the next week. Soon after, I learned “Girls” writer and director Lena Dunham had a feature-length film under her belt, Tiny Furniture, and the same ‘something’ that compelled me to continue watching “Girls” made me enthusiastic to watch Tiny Furniture.

The next night a group of friends and I sat around cruising Netflix when I decided to reward my curiosity and put on Tiny Furniture. However, barely ten minutes in I grew anxious and couldn’t bring myself to continue watching. All the women I saw onscreen were as bland and dry as sandpaper in the Sahara, yet so self-righteous and privileged to the point that I became overwhelmed at the thought of actually knowing these women or being forced into a room with them. For my own sanity I had to turn it off. Seeing people like the girls on screen reminded me of all the self-centered, attention craving, shallow spoiled young adults or “trustafarians” I’d come to know living in the city. Yet despite this disdain, I had an underlying urge to finish Tiny Furniture, so the next night I did, solo.

Through Tiny Furniture I was exposed to the slice of life tale of Aura (Lena Dunham). Freshly graduated from college and heartbroken that her hippie boyfriend abandoned her to find himself, Aura moves back home with her photographer mother, Siri (Laurie Simmons) and her over achieving sister, Nadine (Grace Dunham) in their swanky SoHo loft. While back home, Aura finds herself tangled in a love triangle with a freeloading Youtube sensation, Jed, (Alex Karpovsky) and an arrogant bartender, Jacob (David Call). When she’s not allowing friends and men to take advantage of her, Aura is trying to figure out what to do with her life as a post grad with a film degree and how to live peacefully with her mother and sister. Audiences are there every step of the way while Aura tries, or at least tells herself that she’s trying, to figure it out.

Unsurprisingly, I hated nearly every single character in Tiny Furniture. There are almost no redeeming qualities for any of the main characters as everyone’s flaws are displayed for audiences to prod and poke at. Everyone seems to make terrible decisions, lack common sense, or are just weak, barely ever standing up for themselves while other times they mostly just seem like awful people to know. Nevertheless, that’s what makes watching these people so fascinating despite how annoying they are. I personally know these characters, but for viewers who may not have encountered people like the ones featured in the film, they know them because Dunham allows us to by showing these people as natural as possible.

In a scene between Aura and Siri, Aura is confronted about a number of her mother’s wine bottles being drank. Siri makes that valid point that Aura is not paying for anything in the house and should be more mindful of her consumption. Aura, however, refuses to take responsibility turning the conversation into a shout match instead blaming her mother for not being more sensitive to her “situation,” being a heartbroken young adult trying to figure out what’s next in life. By the end of the argument Siri is defeated, quite,and allows Aura to storm out prompting a giggling Nadine to help her clean Aura’s mess.

There’s no resolution to the scene or any moment when Aura apologizes and comes of age. Life just goes on and the next scene with her mother fails to mention the argument. The scene made me think of times I’ve argued with my own mother and how we resolved our differences and for the most part, like Aura’s family, life just goes on and we just got over it. Regardless of whose fault the argument was there’s barely moments of apology, the anger just goes away and we suck it up. Dunham is an amazing storyteller and does an exceptional job of taking average, mundane and at times awkward situations and recreating them for film. She even directs her actors in such a natural way that’s it hard to comprehend scenes being acted out as opposed to improvised.

Dunham also has a stunning visual eye at times reminding me of visionary mastermind Wes Anderson. She understands the importance of lighting and how colors contrast with one another to make an image pop and seem visually striking despite its low quality. Everything in the world of Tiny Furniture appears natural and Dunham constantly shows herself in highly unflattering states, mostly half-dressed or naked with little to makeup and ratty hair. Yet she’s still capable of capturing herself in beautiful lighting and angles because of her skills behind the camera.

There’s just something intriguing about Dunham’s style that made me magnetized by Tiny Furniture and “Girls” despite disliking so many elements in it. It’s not just because we both share a vagina or are twentysomethings film graduates… or maybe that is the exact reason. In “Girls,” Dunham’s Hannah is a striving author and at one point argues to her parents that they should give her $1100 a month for the next year until she finishes writing her book, stating that she believes that she is the voice of her generation, or at least “a voice.” She may be right about that. Dunham displays and almost glorifies the world she knows which is a generation where it’s ok to waste your 20s trying to “figure out life” before you reach 30, a generation where young adults lack motivation and are still being coddled and taken care of by their parents. As a member of this generation I’ve constantly wondered whose to blame for this blatant air of laziness and hedonism in young adults in the 2000’s. Is it a product of the post-modernism internet culture or could it be the slacking parenting skills of the children of baby boomers? Should blame even be placed or am I just an old fart trapped in a twentysomething’s body and just not made for these times? I’m still trying to figure it all out.

SEE IT. And watch “Girls” too. You may not like the characters but it’s interesting to say the least.

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