Lena Dunham's film debut, "Tiny Furniture," explores the ennui that haunts recent college graduates armed with nothing but a liberal arts degree and a sense of entitlement.
Dunham wrote, directed and starred in "Tiny Furniture," and the character Aura mirrors Dunham's own life, which explains how she was able to eerily capture Aura's aimlessness, even as she lives rent-free in Manhattan.
Aura is a recent graduate of an Ohio college (Dunham graduated from Oberlin in 2008) who moves back into her family's stark white Tribeca loft with no ambition or desire to leave the apartment. She's content to live with her teenage sister Nadine (played by Dunham's younger sister Grace), and her artist mom (played by Dunham's artist mom Laurie Simmons), and spends her days wandering around the loft without pants and forgetting to shower. Dunham keeps the shots wide and the camera steady with few cuts, reflecting Aura's immobility.
Aura gets a daytime job at a bistro that only serves dinner because she thinks she should. "I have no idea what I'm qualified for," Aura confesses.
Her mostly-unrequited affections are split between Jed (Alex Karpovsky), a YouTube commodity who is famous "in an Internet sort of way" and Keith (David Call), a scummy sous chef at the bistro.
Aura thinks she's home, but the apartment isn't really her rightful place anymore. Nadine has annexed her room, and Aura doesn't even know where basic household items, like lightbulbs, are kept. When she finishes off her mom's wine and offers to let Jed crash at the loft, she doesn't understand why her mother rebukes her.
It's to Dunham's credit as both an actor and a writer that Aura isn't insufferable. Listening to a 20-something complain about how hard her cushy life is could be torture. But Dunham doesn't force us to like Aura. She's witty without being cute and is at once wounded and cruel.
Aura's friend Charlotte (Jemima Kirke), who describes herself as "Tribeca's solution to Marianne Faithfull," is similarly without prospects, but not because of apathy or inertia. Kirke gleefully revels in Charlotte's narcissism, giving "Tiny Furniture" a much needed spark.
Dunham purposefully ends "Tiny Furniture" ambiguously, never revealing whether Aura will stick to her own arrested development or set herself free.