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Review Summary

Pitched unsteadily if shrewdly between honest self-reflection and squirmy narcissistic indulgence, the low-budget indie “Tiny Furniture” is one of the bigger itsy-bitsy movies to hit this year. It was written and directed by the newcomer Lena Dunham, who also plays the leading role of Aura, a recent college graduate who returns to her family’s TriBeCa loft and promptly tries to crawl back in the womb. What makes this womb without apparent view especially notable is that Ms. Dunham’s own mother, the artist Laurie Simmons, plays Aura’s mother, while her real sister, Grace, plays Aura’s on-screen sibling. The story unfolds leisurely, almost listlessly. Aura, carrying a pet white hamster that registers as a token of her vulnerability, slips into her postgraduate routine. She reunites with a childhood friend, Charlotte (Jemima Kirke, funny and appalling), goes to a party, gets a job as a restaurant hostess and flirts with two men, Jed (Alex Karpovsky) and Keith (David Call), whose indifference to her she stubbornly and excruciatingly refuses to acknowledge. She wanders about the loft, padding around in her pajamas like a toddler and standing (in awe or confusion) before the gleaming white cabinets and wall of books that look like the monument to success they are. Nothing happens, and then something does. As you watch Aura meander, you might start wondering when the “real” story will kick in. You’ll have to keep waiting. Part performance piece, part thought experiment, “Tiny Furniture” only looks like a straightforward coming-of-age narrative. — Manohla Dargis

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