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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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…