Tiny Furniture: The SSL Review

Well, I just watched Tiny Furniture, and you know what, I enjoyed it. It's a 2010 indie movie written, directed and starred in by a woman named Lena Dunham. From what I've read flitting about on the internet, it's received mixed reviews. Some love it...it did win Best First Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards. Some loved it not so much. Mostly there was a lot of criticism involving the whiny, self involved, liberal arts major sort of vibe. Now, normally I hate a whiny movie, but I thought this movie was more funny than whiny. It entertained me, and that, my friend, does not always happen with this kind of indie movie. So, I say check it out.

So that's my quick over all review. The SSL review will also be pretty short. Tiny Furniture barely qualifies as having depicted or discussed female sexual response, but it still does, and so it's worth a little review. The first instance happens when Aura (Lena Dunham), a 22 year old just back at home after graduating college is talking with her younger teenage sister Nadine (Grace Dunham...Lena's actual sister). Aura is in the shower shaving her legs, and Nadine is sitting on the seat next to her talking. It's all spoken in a normal kind of jovial, making fun of your sister style.

Aura: Can I ask you something?
Nadine: I want to say yes, but usually when you ask me if you can ask me something it's not something I want to be asked.
Aura: Have you lost your virginity yet?
Nadine: I think you would know the answer to that question. Is that really something you need to ask me?
Aura: I don't know if I would know the answer to that question.You don't tell me everything.
Nadine: I think you would know.
Aura: I don't know....Have you ever had an orgasm?
Nadine: (flustered and laughing) I'm not answering a question like that. That's...If you keep asking me questions like that, I'm just gonna leave this bathroom, and leave you to your shaving.
Aura: There is no reason for you to shriek at me right now.
Nadine: There is because I'm not so over sharey, sharey like you. Like, I'm not just gonna go down into mom's studio and be like "Mom, Candice, like my heart is so broken and my vagina hurts so much!"

So, an older sister brings up orgasm to a younger sister - ah, so sweet. There isn't a lot here to critique, but she does separate the act of intercourse (which is, of course, insinuated in the question about virginity) from an orgasm. So in a way, this movie very slightly promotes the idea of orgasms emerging from acts other than the ol' in and out. I'll give it small props for that...Masturbation possibly? A little cunnilingus maybe? Mutual masturbation? Could it be dry humping (or clothes burning if you're Southern)? Anyway, it's small but worth a shout out.

The second SSL worthy thing happens later when Aura is having sex with a dude somewhere outside - inside a giant pipe. Classy? Yes it is, but hey, we've all lost a little class due to horny-ness at one time or another, haven't we? So they're looking for a place to do it, and like I said, end up in a cut piece of giant pipe. They get in, struggle to get some clothing loosened, and then when he gets his fly undone, she goes down. The camera pulls out to a far off shot of the pipe, and we hear him say, "suck it harder." Not seconds later, we see her on hands and knees and him working on entering her from behind. Just before it actually happens...

Aura: You don't have AIDS do you?
Dude: No. Do you?
Aura: uhn uh.
Dude: Do you have Herpe?
Aura: No, Do you?
Dude: No
As good as a  STD test, I say. He then pumps into her for a few seconds and she says, "Pull my hair." So, he does. He pumps a little more and then comes, pulls out, and sits back. During the whole short banging, she is looking off into the distance, kinda seeming like she's into it. Her mouth's open a little, and there is some little short, quiet, breathy grunts that I would attribute to the simple fact that she's getting pushed up in from behind. It really doesn't read at all to me like she has had an orgasm, and I'm sure it wasn't supposed to. So what does this depiction say to the audience about female sexual response? Well, it does not say that a little bit of doggy style will get a woman off, so it's not out in the world spreading bold faced lies, which is better than some I've seen. It's kinda silent beyond that. Although, I'll make a bit of a stretch and say it also insinuates something a little more.

First off, after it ended, she didn't particularly seem disappointed like she might if she didn't get an orgasm. She didn't seem much of anything in particular. Later when she was walking home with him and realized he's kind of annoying and dicky, she seemed bothered, but by this time, her problem with him seems to be an emotional issue.  Secondly, I think the pulling hair situation was meant to be kind of funny. Aura said the line really lackadaisical, and it's in this really strange location, and I think it's supposed to reference a kind of strange and common porn culture wanna-be sort of gal. However, I would argue that the hair pulling line could as easily be understood without any humorous undertones. Asking to have one's hair pulled during sex is associated with a kind of highly sexual, freaky-deaky sort of person.

So, let's review...the movie did not specifically point out Aura's lack of orgasm to the audience. Combine that with the hair pull and her tiny grunts, and I think you get a recipe for a non critical viewer to assume that Aura "finished" along with her dude. No, maybe that's too strong of a statement. It's more like I think maybe some viewers would just passively let that scene sit in their heads along with all the other sex scenes they've encountered and simultaneously passively allow intercourse and female orgasm to also be linked in their brains. So, I guess what I'm saying is this scene may just add to the status quo, and the status quo depictions of female orgasm don't tell a very truthful story (like that a little doggy style makes the ladies come!).

Okay, I know that was digging deep, but if I don't do stuff like that, and critique with just a bit too much of a fine edge, then who will? Anyway, I certainly don't think this movie added a progressive look at female sexual release to the world. It may have even facilitated (unintentionally) the stale, incorrect view that dominates our media.

I give it 3 out of 5 vulvas (I liked the sister orgasm talk, and I padded it because I thought a lot of it was funny, and because a woman wrote and directed it - it's my rating system and I can do whatever I want with it...).

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