Warning: Those allergic to quirkiness may be sent into fits of anaphylactic shock by the DIY indie “Tiny Furniture,” but the immune among us will find something of a rough gem.
The microbudget dramedy plays Friday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
New Yorker Lena Dunham is the film’s writer, director and star. (You’ve never seen her before, but if you’ve seen 2009’s “The House of the Devil,” you at least heard her voice as the 911 operator.) Acting opposite her real-life mother and sister as her fictional mother and sister, Dunham plays the mousy, dumpy Aura, who returns home to recalibrate following both a split from her longtime boyfriend and her graduation from college.
To say that her family life is unconventional is a given, based solely on the name Aura. Mom (Laurie Simmons) is a successful artist/ photographer, while Nadine (Grace Dunham) is an overachieving high school genius. As for Aura … well, she likes to sleep late and walk around their apartment sans pants.
In her post-grad delirium, she neglects her own artistic ambitions in favor of hanging out with friends, finding a no-brainer job as a hostess, and romancing a self-absorbed, would-be filmmaker (Alex Karpovsky) known for such pretentious YouTube performance-art vids as “Skeptical Gynecologist” and “Nietschian Cowboy” (his spelling, not ours).
But this picture isn’t about whether Aura will find true love or regain her creative mojo; it’s just about Aura from one point in time to another, ending abruptly yet somehow appropriately. It’s a study in characters, and there are plenty for Dunham to examine.
Aura and her pals remind one of the lyrics to The Dandy Warhols song “Bohemian Like You”: “So what do you do / Oh, yeah, I wait tables, too … ’Cause’ I like you, yeah, I like you / And I’m feeling so Bohemian like you.” They’re the kids who cry “woe is me” despite living a life of uninterrupted privilege and comfort. The daughter of two far-from-starving artists herself, Dunham seems to poke fun at her own environs, giving her rich-but-shallow characters lines like “I leave my lights on when I’m gone. For fun,” and let them go unexplained and unrecognized.
In that aspect, “Tiny Furniture” carries its own figurative vocabulary. Like the films of Miranda July (“You and Me and Everyone We Know”) and Whit Stillman (“Metropolitan,” “Barcelona”), Dunham’s feature very much exists in its own elite, insulated world — foreign to most viewers, but easy to acclimate to, given a script that’s intelligent, accessible and delightful.
While it’s too early to tell, it may have the year’s funniest line, in which Aura’s perpetually drug-addled BFF (Jemima Kirke) discusses difficulties in finding gainful employment: “On my résumé under ‘Skills,’ I put ‘has a landline.’”