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Thursday
Dec132012

With Regards to Lena Dunham

Hello, lovelies. Beau here, discussing a unique talent whose first foray into television just released on DVD and Blu-Ray for all the sorry souls deprived of the best network on television.

Lena Dunham might be the most divisive director of her generation. Self-deprecating, incisive, witty, aware to a fault, she’s what would happen if Diane Keaton and Miranda July met and had tea using Amy Heckerling as a footstool. But at the same time, her characters and their individual dilemmas are direct reflections of their generation, behaviors indicative of a group of twenty-somethings who devoured Palahniuk and shit out Klosterman. They Know What They’re Doing And They Are Smarter Than You. Hipsters cum Proselytizers. Join us or be deemed irrelevant.

I’ve talked with several co-workers, friends, relatives who’ve watched either Tiny Furniture or Girls (or both) and find her writing and her characterizations insufferable. Others still find it remarkable and on-the-nose, a young woman (or girl, if you will) entirely aware of her faults and vices and dealing with them through humor and observation.

The question then is: is that something we want to watch?

 

I found Tiny Furniture to be a remarkable film with a very clear voice, but it left me with this surreal feeling of sadness. There was this longing I had for her to just change, move forward, beat the stagnation. But her toiling in those waters, wafting slowly in the endless sea of uncertainty, is the point of the film. The same way that we leave her at the end of the first season of Girls.

Season One - MVP. Perfect line readings, perfect pitch.

Hannah’s friends/counterparts, all in one way or another, have made a step forward (or so they believe). Jessa is married, impulsively, basking in the warm glow of adulthood. Marnie ever so subtly rejects the advances of her ex and calls for a truce with Andrew Rannell’s Elijah. Practicing maturity and perfecting it. Even Shoshanna finally loses her virginity to Ray willingly, aching for this breach in her womanhood. But Lena does something truly remarkable in the last five minutes of the season finale, a creative touch that solidified and even elevated the previous season in my eyes. Her Hannah loses her boyfriend, loses her purse, loses her way. (‘Where am I?’ she yells, dazed and confused as she wanders off a metro to a group of onlookers (similar to her in age) across the tracks.) Are they on the right side or the wrong side? And really, where the fuck is she?


She manages her way to the outskirts of New York near Coney Island, barefoot and broken, and busts out some leftovers and takes a few bites. Sound of seagulls all around, her watching the sea, licking her fingers in a particularly nice, adolescent touch. She’s lost, but fuck, what else is she going to do?

 

This brought Antoine Doinel to mind, at the end of The 400 Blows. While some are going to scoff at the notion of comparing Truffaut to Lena Dunham, to me, it makes sense. He’s broken free, runs, and stops at the ocean. Where do I go now? It’s not a stretch to imagine the two of them sitting side by side, Hannah sharing bits of her crumble cake with the young boy, as they both continue to waft in their own respective oceans, waiting for a wave.

Few directors working are willing to show you that horror of finding yourself lost and with no direction anywhere. Few directors anywhere are willing to acknowledge the lack of a current, and the danger of sinking. 
Lena Dunham, to my mind, has accomplished so much in such a short period of time specifically because she gets it. What it is to wait for a change to happen. What can you do when you know you have to, but you don’t know how to begin?

You wait. You sit down, acknowledge where you are, acknowledge that you’re lost, and wait.

Wait for the current to come in.

Lena Dunham and her Girls return to HBO on January 13th. Watch it.


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    With Regards to Lena Dunham - Blog - The Film Experience
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    With Regards to Lena Dunham - Blog - The Film Experience
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    With Regards to Lena Dunham - Blog - The Film Experience

Reader Comments (13)

Absolutely love this show. Love this writeup too. For a show that is so much a part of the current cultural conversation around TV, it is pretty rare to read an article that actually deals with the text of Girls as a show. Most articles spend so much time tearing up all of the various social and cultural contexts that surround Lena Dunham as a public figure that they actually ignore the work that she has created.

December 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB

Best 2012 Comedy series, that's for sure. Cannot wait to see the 2nd season.

December 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

I have to say that when I saw the much-discussed pilot, I felt a bit disappointed.
However I decided to stick around and I'm so glad I did! Now I can declare my absolute love for Girls and can't wait for Season 2.

PS Adam Driver you're my discovery of the year.

December 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Great article Beau. I really love this show and Lena Dunham's painfully honest voice. The girl's got talent!

December 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSquasher88

Oh and I forgot to say, I'm with you on Jemima Kirke! Loved her in Tiny Furniture too but she's leaps and bounds more interesting and more subtle here.

December 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTB

I liked but wasn't too keen on Tiny Furniture, which I thought became awfully, increasingly self-absorbed as the film progressed, albeit not in ways that felt particularly insightful. On the other hand, I feel very strongly that Girls might possibly be the best show on television right now. I think it's such a brave, astoundingly refreshing look at a very specific subgroup that seems so easy to both glorify and/or ridicule, and yet Dunham rarely gives in to the urge to do either. It's the type of show that's also so, ridiculously funny and wry that it's only a couple days after an episode has aired that you realize just how much these complex, specific characters have advanced. Immediately after the finale, I just sat there for a moment thinking about that first scene in the pilot where Hannah's eating in the restaurant and was blown away but how much this show has progressed. I love that the first time we see Hannah she's voraciously eating and how it's also the last image we get of her. She's insatiable, for more than just cake, and I love that Girls isn't afraid to allow us to let Hannah both exasperate and endear us to her. I'm clearly gushing to the point that it's become unseemly but I truly think this show is leaps and bounds above arguably anything else on TV, in its genre or otherwise.

December 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

Good article, Beau. Tiny Furniture is a good first feature. Girls season one feels like a transitional work. The closing moments of the season finale are indeed quite remarkable - it's the best sequence of her young career. I'm excited to see what she'll do in the future. I hope she doesn't just get swallowed up by TV.

December 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

This is a great write-up.

Brilliant last few sentences; "Lena Dunham....gets it. What it is to wait for a change to happen. What can you do when you know you have to, but you don’t know how to begin? You wait. You sit down, acknowledge where you are, acknowledge that you’re lost, and wait".

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYazdi

I don't think you're being quite fair to Lena Dunham's detractors. It's not because she's too "witty" that she has critics. Most people tend to like wit. OK, the charges of nepotism are bunk, and in any case, irrelevant to the conversation about Dunham's work. And the quasi-confessional nature of the show is a matter of taste, as you mention. But I shared a lot of folks' confusion about the show's obliviousness to race. When it's not ignoring New Yorkers of color entirely, it just uses them (usually without noticeable irony or self-awareness) as accessories to the main characters. That encouraging black homeless guy, all those advice-giving nannies, etc. I'm curious about how Dunham will handle this going forward, as she's promised to do.

It's probably not fair that the hoopla almost swallowed up the show, and it's probably not fair to pin a lot of years' of frustration on this one showrunner. But they called the show "Girls"! The show made claims to be representing a generation of women. Maybe those weren't her calls, maybe they were marketing decisions, but that's just inviting trouble.

As for the show itself, I find Girls to be spiritedly-plotted, for me only sporadically funny, and very serious and sincere in its intentions. I wish they found more for Zosiah Mamet to do. Was glad you mentioned the 400 Blows reference I might have otherwise simply imagined was there.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

Wonderful, thoughtful write-up - so, thankfully, focused on the right angle of what makes this show worthy and fantastic.

At last, enough with the complaints. I get it. It's not as "diverse" as it could be. My (somewhat marginal) experience of the NYC Lena Dunham grew up in and still occupies is that it's not as diverse as it could be, either. Does that make it false? No way. I don't recall Lena Dunham claiming she was writing a show that depicted every single "Girl" in her twenties. It's the critics of her not-as-inclusive-as-it-could-be world that seem to think that's what's required of her.

She's writing what she knows. Brilliantly.

I'm thrilled to have a figure like Lena Dunham on the radar. Her voice is welcome. Plus, each episode of 'Girls' seems like the baby sister from some heyday vacuum of 90's indie aesthetics. Hannah even has a 'Party Girl' poster on her teenage bedroom ceiling. Love.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJesse

Here's the thing: I couldn't STAND Tiny Furniture. Except for Jemima Kirke. It was just so... insular. But I kind of LOVED Girls. Part of that, I think, is that TV allows Dunham - practically forces her, actually - to focus on a much larger group of characters. All of them may be just as self-involved as Dunham was in Tiny Furniture, but having more of them diffuses it somehow, makes it more tolerable. In each episode, there's at least one character/storyline to grab on to in a positive way. Granted, part of this might be that I am at this age (or was just a couple of short years ago) and dealing with similar issues in my life and career. It spoke to me in a way that Tiny Furniture just didn't.

It helps that it is genuinely funny, espicially in the physical comedy.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Or...A divisive director. Of A generation.

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaden

Love the show, and awesome write-up, Beau.
I still haven't seen Tiny Furniture yet, although it's definitely been way up on my radar know having finally finished Season 1 of Girls during the summer. (HBO Go is a blessing: I caught the first two episodes when they premiered and got sidetracked...luckily, I was able to get through them all in May).
I haven't really read into the controversies surrounding Dunham/the show when it premiered, so not quite familiar with these gripes, but Beau you perfectly summarized my feelings on the show.
Lena's voice is definitely unique (and something I'm certainly starting to relate to...just starting my membership in the "Recent College Graduate Twentysomething Club," but I can't wait for Season Two of Girls.

(Plus, having nerdgasms at the fact that by March of next year, I'll have Girls, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones all to enjoy at the same time: wheeeee!!!)

December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyan M

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