This note is a bank shot among a number of different film sites. Initial inspiration is the deal that HBO just made with Judd Apatow to produce a half-hour comedy pilot to be written by, directed by, and starring 24 year old NYC indie phenom Lena Dunham, as reported on Deadline Hollywood.
Dunham is the writer/producer/star of the recent SXSW entry "Tiny Furniture", reviewed very amusingly here by Glenn Kenny. TF raises a number of questions that haunt me these days: It sounds almost staggeringly obnoxious. Dunham, her sister, and her mother (an art world star) play Dunham, her sister , and her mother (an art world star), who live together in a beautiful expensive loft in lower Manhattan...
Kenny anticipates my reaction:
In being a certain age (in my own case, just a hair over fifty) and dealing with material by and ostensibly for people in their uncertain twenties, one must be ever-wary of falling into the "they are scum" trap that ensnared Somerset Maugham when he assessed a seminal work by and about a then-younger generation, Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim.On the other hand, the great Richard Brody loves this movie so much he's reviewed it three times, and it hasn't even opened yet. Brody takes direct issue with Kenney on the issue of the obnoxiousness of the characters and is admirably, if somewhat impossibly for me, firm
One also finds one rolling one's eyes at (Dunham's) taste in men, if you can call them that (if nothing else, the film provided me with an insight as to why Dunham, in real-life interviews, tends to refer to the individuals she dates as "boys"); she's rather inexplicably drawn to a smarmy creep named Jed (Alex Karpovsky, who I hear through the grapevine is a bit of a micro-indie heartthrob, yeesh) who makes videos of himself philosophizing on a rocking horse under the rubric "The Nietschean Cowboy," and also to a sleazy self-described "chef" (David Call) who will "date" Aura if Aura can score some pills from the eclectic medicine cabinet of her glam unsupervised artist's-daughter friend Charlotte (Jemima Kirk). One is rather used to men being awful in Manhattan-set films concerning the romantic travails of young women, but man, if these two guys are really representative of the dating pool these days, ladies, you have my utmost sympathy.
....even at its most queasy-making, Tiny Furniture never registers as genuinely hateful in the way that gets cranks such as myself so worked up about when we're faced with what we take as blinkered hipster solipsism; rather, I sensed that Dunham herself is too young and too confused to be able to distinguish between showing compassion for her characters and slathering her own self with masochistic love.
...it was, in part, the excessive attention to the characters in films that she wrote about that got in the way of my taking much interest in Pauline Kael’s reviews, despite the ancillary reading pleasures they offered.
A movie, if it’s any good, conjures a world, or, rather, a world view; and complaining, as Glenn does, that one character is “a weirdly lumpy sad-sack” and another is “a smarmy creep” and that the film’s men are “quasi-monsters” does little to advance our understanding of the world Dunham does, indeed, artistically conjure, and, for that matter, of the world as such, through her vision. Imaginative sympathy isn’t a quality that the director earns through making sympathetic characters but through the force of her or his own character. And, of this, Dunham has plenty.