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Vol. LXIV, No. 50
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

PLAYING WITH HER CHILDHOOD TOYS: Aura (Lena Dunham, lying on the floor) seems to find solace in playing with her miniature furniture that her mother (Laurie Simmons) has saved all these years.

Tiny Furniture: College Graduate Returns Home in Coming-of-Age Comedy

Kam Williams

Aura (Lena Dunham) is a recent college graduate who’s depressed because her boyfriend dumped her, and because she realizes that her degree in film appreciation is essentially worthless. So, she reluctantly returns to New York City and moves in with her mother (Laurie Simmons) and her 17-year-old sister (Grace Dunham). Her mother has a trendy TriBeCa loft which doubles as her photography studio.

At the suggestion of her best friend Charlotte (Jemima Kirke), she takes a dead-end job as a hostess at a local eatery, a decision which predictably is unsatisfactory. In addition, she starts looking for love in all the wrong places, exhibiting bad judgment by hooking up with a promiscuous colleague (David Call) in a back alley, and by dating a homeless man (Alex Karpovsky) and letting him move into her mother’s loft without bothering to obtain her permission.

Written and directed by, and starring Lena Durham, Tiny Furniture is a sobering — sometimes humorous — film on what life might be like for young adults who are trying to live in the big city in the 21st century. Earlier this year, this delightfully fresh indie film won the Jury Prize for Best Narrative at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

To her credit Ms. Dunham took a novel approach to casting by enlisting the services of her own mother and sister to play themselves — plus a number of other non-professionals — to make their acting debuts. The result is a scintillating slice of cinema verité that never feels very far removed from reality.

Dunham’s unorthodox ideas are not limited to the cast, but extend to the frank dialogue and graphic goings-on in this thoroughly unpredictable, yet plausible romantic dramedy. And because the self-deprecating protagonist frequently presents herself in an unflattering fashion, that vulnerability endears her with the audience, regardless of her personal failings.

Excellent (4 stars) Unrated. Running time: 99 Minutes. Distributor: IFC Films.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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