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Tiny Furniture: What is Wrong with this Picture?

11/14/2010 12:46 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A fresher, smarter movie you are not likely to see this season than "Tiny Furniture," written, directed by, and starring Lena Dunham, a sweet-faced young woman festooned with tasteful tattoos. A film within the film shows her in a bikini, not a perfect ten, but you've got to give her snaps for this vanity defying display. Shot in her family's downtown loft, the film features her mother, the artist Laurie Simmons, as well as her sister, Grace Dunham, as her mother and sister respectively. You could logically assume that much of the material is autobiographical, and as such, a Zeitgeist marking moment.

On Wednesday, after the premiere at MoMA, one ecstatic viewer asked Simmons, would she please raise his children, a remark that took her off guard. She responded gamely, that parenting was not a job she was particularly prepared to do. Listening to this, a mother of girls with one as my date, both of whom like Lena Dunham attended a NYC private school, I wondered what was bothering me. From the look of it, Simmons as a parent seemed loving, yet self-involved, indulging her kids, perhaps to make up for not entirely focusing on them. She teaches her daughter a few good lessons about entitlement, un-hypocritically permits a boyfriend to sleep in her bed (sex at 20 is simply taken for granted), and generally allows her girls to learn as they go. The results are tough and funny.

I laughed. I cried. My daughter observed that some of the dialogue sounded eerily familiar as if Dunham had secretly mic-ed our place. What disturbed me was where this film went as a record of a girl's post-college sexual evolution. Aura as a character is not adept at self-protection, alarmingly generous to strangers, allowing her self to be used. She makes it with one guy in a metal tube, a found, if claustrophobic, shelter. Aside from the sight gag and any metaphoric implications, it looks fine for him, painful for her. A rude awakening: those rumors about all the blowjobs status-seeking girls were giving classmates INSTEAD of sex-(Clinton, are you listening?)-- are true. Young men seem as immature and insensitive as they were decades ago. Dunham's fictive mother, like most, is spared the realities of where her child's sexual liberation has led, but as film viewer like me, Simmons must now know. Maybe moms have been teaching the wrong lessons and should, along with our lack of guidance in such matters, be handing out copies of "The Joy of Sex." Is my complaint just a throw back to the "Satisfaction"-seeking 'seventies? Free to enjoy sex, our girls-with a nod to Cyndi Lauper-- should be wanting more fun

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