Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tiny Furniture (2010)

For the genre that has been known heretofore as mumblecore, Lena Dunham’s 2010 effort may mark the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning. At the very least it should mark the conclusion of one epoch and the start of another. That is not to say that the genre has been proven somehow invalid, or even that it’s been entirely superseded. But, simply put, Dunham’s, Tiny Furniture has coopted so much of mumblecore’s indie stylings and made them palatable that mumblecore may have to fall back and regroup if it wants to retain its avant-garde draw. Tiny Furniture is an itsy($50,000), indie, art film with mainstream sensibilities and grand aspirations—a combination that typically puts garage band cinephiles on the defensive—and it knows what it is and treads the line very carefully.

True, her film is replete with mumbleisms: digital video with a quasi-direct feel, non-actors playing average people who spew staggeringly inane but stupendously genuine dialogue and the self-centered ennui of white, post-collegiate twenty-somethings, characters with little or no dramatic arc. But some key components are omitted. That imperfect DIY feel is nowhere to be found; this is a very clean film with very smooth lines (it isn’t beautifully shot but it is clean), a severe aesthetic departure from films like, The pleasure of being robbed and Funny Ha Ha, both pretty films in their own right but, technically speaking, very imperfect. Part of that is certainly due to the setting (Tribeca is not the grittiest place on earth) but, by-and-large, there isn’t much of anything that could be considered lo-fi. Additionally, there is the matter of the dialogue. This film is scripted; there is no doubt about it. All that you have to do is listen to Laurie Simmons’ deadpan delivery of each line to discern that. Yet, to some extent, Mumblecore draws its parameters around imperfect auditory technique and is dependent on its improvisational feel, the loose freedom that captures the natural interactions of awkward people who mostly fail at communicating. But this film feels articulate and well-rehearsed; that’s because Dunham wrote a tight script and she stuck to it.

So what is mumblecore without awkward and indistinct conversations, without jerky, handheld, unfocused voyeurism? More importantly, how many defining characteristics can you eschew before you drift gracefully out of the genre altogether and right into the Sundance Film Festival? Maybe Tiny Furniture isn’t mumblecore; Dunham claims that it isn’t (though you never ask the director). But even as mumblecore’s bastard stepchild—Dunham born of an illicit affair between Wes Anderson and Aaron Katz?—her film is honest and clever enough to merit most of the attention that it has received.

Director: Lena Dunham

Cast:  Lena Dunham, Laurie Simmons, Grace Dunham, Jemima Kirke, Alex Karpovsky, David Call, Merritt Wever, Amy Seimetz

No comments:

Post a Comment