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Originally published Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 3:02 PM

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Movie review

'Tiny Furniture': a small tale of post-grad life

Lena Dunham's debut as filmmaker, "Tiny Furniture," stars herself playing a bored and confused college graduate, with her family playing — her family. It's a good idea for a movie and there are some moments of sly humor that suggest Dunham might one day make a good film. But this isn't it.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars

'Tiny Furniture,' with Lena Dunham, Laurie Simmons, Grace Dunham, Rachel Howe, Jemima Kirke, Merritt Wever, Alex Karpovsky. Written and directed by Lena Dunham. 99 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains sexuality). Varsity. Also at Central Cinema starting Sunday (21 and older).

Lena Dunham, a filmmaker and recent college graduate, has made a film that stars herself as a recent college graduate. "Tiny Furniture" was shot at Dunham's family's Tribeca loft, and features her real-life mother (Laurie Simmons) as her mother, and her real-life sister (Grace Dunham) playing her sister. According to the film's press kit, Dunham wrote the film in a week, with her family and friends in mind to play the roles. In the film, Dunham's character mopes about not having enough to do post-graduation; it seems that the real Dunham doesn't share this problem.

As small-scale and precious as its title indicates, "Tiny Furniture" is nonetheless hard to dismiss; there's not much to it, but you do sense, after watching it, that this filmmaker might someday make something very good, once she starts looking beyond her own immediate vicinity.

When we first meet Aura (Dunham's character), she's trundling her suitcase and pet hamster home from college to the loft, hiding in the hood of her sweatshirt. She wanders the apartment, goes to parties filled with pretentious chatter, meets a good-looking guy who's "kind of a big deal on YouTube," finds a dead-end restaurant job, laments with her friends that "we picked the worst possible time to graduate." Nothing much comes of any of this, particularly the young man (who isn't interested), the job (she quits) and the hamster (guess).

This all sounds fairly dull, and often it is, filmed in long, static shots that don't add any interest. But Dunham has a sly sense of humor that frequently perks to the surface, particularly in Aura's scenes with her mother, and an often touching wistfulness.

"I felt so sure I'd met the best friends I'd ever have," she says of her college pals, who seem to be slipping away. In one scene, she sits on an air mattress to push the air out of it (the would-be boyfriend, who was sleeping on it, has vacated); we see her slowly, sadly, slipping down in the camera's frame, deflating before our eyes. "Tiny Furniture" isn't really a movie, not yet, but it might be a beginning.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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