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In Dependence: “Tiny Furniture,” Reviewed

In Dependence: “Tiny Furniture,” Reviewed (photo)

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This review originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

Honestly, “Tiny Furniture” should be intolerable. It’s about post-college malaise, the type of topic that becomes exponentially harder to relate to as you get distance on it. It’s about the added doldrums of figuring out a career when you come from the kind of privileged background where you’re not actually required to get one, which is the type of topic that’s hard to relate to at all. And it’s semi-autobiographical, with writer/director Lena Dunham starring as Aura and her mother and sister playing Aura’s artist mother and younger sibling, respectively, a set-up that implies all sorts of navel-gazing self-indulgence.

That’s it’s not at all intolerable — it’s actually quite funny and charming — is thanks to Dunham’s nigh-majestic lack of vanity. Aura, who’s moved back into her mother’s ridiculously hip all-white Tribeca loft after four years of college in Ohio, is a doughy mass of uncertainty, defensiveness and neediness. Her undergrad boyfriend broke up with her to head home to a nouveau hippy life in Colorado, her only friend in New York is Charlotte (Jemima Kirke), a chain-smoking, needy flake in search of a sidekick, and her overachieving sister and impatient mother are too consumed with their own lives to give her the attention she feels she deserves. Aura loafs around the apartment, not bothering to wear pants. Her mother gently suggests she take a shower. She finds a job as the “day hostess” at a restaurant that isn’t actually open during the day — she’s basically a receptionist, answering the phone for $11 an hour.

Aura’s problem is that she doesn’t have what most people would consider a problem — her life is so comfortable, her dilemmas so luxurious (she explains that she doesn’t want to go into the art world, because that’s her mother’s territory, but effortlessly ends up with a YouTube video in a show in DUMBO anyway) that no one will sympathize with the fact that she feels genuinely lost and depressed. She latches on to two men so openly disastrous that her interactions with them have a sort of comedic suspense — which will mistreat her first?

03162010_tinyfurniture2.jpgThere’s Jed (Alex Karpovsky), the passive aggressive, freeloading would-be comedian (“He kind of a big deal on YouTube,” she tells someone) who ends up crashing with her while rebuffing her awkward romantic overtures. And there’s Keith (David Call), the sous chef at the restaurant with the high cheekbones and the girlfriend troubles, who’ll flirt and offer comradely complaints about the sleaziness of the other employees, but who ends up being just as much of an asshole.

Aura’s vulnerability and the often bitingly funny series of humiliations that stem from it make her sympathetic, but she also does some awful things — screwing over a good friend, stealing her mother’s diary, brandishing an off-putting sense of entitlement. It’s a disarmingly open performance, and it’s not one capped with an obvious comeuppance. I don’t know that I buy the film’s underlying intimation that all women succumb to and learn to navigate internal storms of self-doubt and identity crises through their 20s (itself a kind of privilege) but I like that Aura isn’t necessarily on a firmer path at the film’s close, and that the lessons she’s learned aren’t necessarily good ones. As Charlotte tosses off, “no one’s financially independent until they’re at least 25. Or 30!” It could be that Aura has a long way to go before becoming a fully functioning human being — if she does.

“Tiny Furniture” opens in limited release November 12th.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.