Indie doesn’t just mean Independent studio. It usually has other qualities and unfortunately, now clichés that go with it. It is usually a “personal film,” written and/or directed by its lead. It is also set in a world filled with characters that have weird quirks, which everyone but those within the film seem to notice. Add an “indie soundtrack” (again, personally picked by the lead) and animate the opening (and/or closing) credits and you have yourself an “independent” film.
These are films that are supposed to juxtapose what is considered mainstream but its become a genre of film itself, falling into a lot of traps and clichés that its supposed to avoid. The worst cliché of all hits Tiny Furniture more than any other – it’s a film where nothing seems to happen.
There is a place for this kind of movie. A film that looks at a set of characters and how they grow and interact, making some kind of personal journey or discovery over the course of the film. The movie is more about their interactions and how they learn to cope with more subtle events, rather than a film filled with drama and excitement.
Unfortunately, Tiny Furniture doesn’t seem to accomplish this. It’s a film about the director/writer/star, Lena Dunham’s character going home after college, with no real clue or direction. You’d hope that over the course of the movie she’d find this direction, or at least make some sort of personal discovery but this never seems to occur.
Tiny Furniture is a film that just seems to go from slightly quirky, mildly funny event to another. The characters aren’t likable ones that you can get involved with but are actually annoying and whiny, particularly Aura, played by Lena Dunham. Some may say this is the point of her character but if I’m going to invest my time for 90 minutes, I want there to be some sort of pay-off at the end.
Autobiographical seems to be a good excuse to make a film where very little happens or very little is actually said. Many people like the simplicity and the writing of this movie, particularly because it gave Lena Dunham a HBO series, Girls, which itself is actually very good. The difference between Girls and Tiny Furniture is that in Girls, the characters are actually doing something entertaining, saying something funny or making some sort of progress and development as characters.
The more I watch Indie films, the more I’m thinking they aren’t for me. There are a few that are closer to the line between studio financed and independently paid for that manage to create something unique and entertaining, without rolling out the same usual clichés. Super is a good example, as is Youth in Revolt. Unfortunately, Tiny Furniture falls into the area that is deeply independent and subsequently, feels like a very personal film. A film so personal, I don’t really care about what it is trying to say.
Overall, I didn’t like Tiny Furniture. It fell into the trap of other “personal” films, which are written and directed by its lead in some autobiographical sense, in that it was an hour and a half of very little actually happening. This works sometimes but I was never invested enough or engaged enough in what Lena Dunham’s varied (and quirky) characters had to say or do.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)