Thursday, March 1, 2012
In defense of Lena Dunham...
Lena Dunham is a 25 year old writer/director/actor known primarily in the independent film community for Tiny Furniture. Tiny Furniture is a film about a post-college grad living with her mom and sister in an upscale Manhattan apartment who can't figure out what to do with herself. The film came out at SXSW when she was just 24 years old and it won best narrative feature. From that, the film got a distribution deal with IFC films, eventually a Criterion Collection DVD/blu-ray release, and now she's created and will be starring in a new show that Judd Apatow is executive producing.
All of this has not exactly been celebrated by the blogosphere, or by cinephiles, fans of Criterion Collection, etc... Dunham has her fair share of supporters, but she has just as many detractors. Her new show "Girls" comes out on HBO in April and a new trailer has been released for it. Just reading the comments below the trailer can give you an idea where some people stand when it comes to her and her comedic style.
I must admit that I was among those detractors and, for the most part, I still am on the other side. I didn't really find much to admire about Tiny Furniture other than what she has accomplished from it. She has a wealthy mother and apparently quite a few connections in the industry, but those connections are just speculation as far as I'm concerned. What turned me off from Tiny Furniture is the sense of self-importance without any real social commentary or value. The characters are mostly dull and it seems as though the comedy is supposed to be coming from the "witty dialogue" as written by Lena Dunham. The film is well-shot, but not much else. Still, it seemed to have resonate with some people and people like Judd Apatow responded positively from it and, plus, she's young. I won't deny that she may have promise as a performer, writer, and director. There were definitely some promising moments in Tiny Furniture and if there's people like Judd Apatow coaching her then that can't be bad.
I want her to do well, but I hope she's able to grow and mature as an artist. Watching the "Girls" trailer makes me believe that it'll basically be Tiny Furniture in a 30-minute format. But, maybe her humor would fare better in smaller doses. I give her the benefit of the doubt because the negativity directed towards her has gotten tiresome to me. Either the show starts, gets poor reviews, and Judd Apatow made an error in judgment; or, it becomes a critical success and maybe even a hit. I mean, all of her previous work is now on the Criterion Collection for God's sakes. Either she's worth that type of treatment or she's not. It's not worth getting up in arms over, it's really not. I still dislike Tiny Furniture but I'm not gonna sit here and continue to knock her down. How many female writer/directors are out there in the cinema world right now? Honestly? There may be more female-centric tv shows out there than movies, which is why I'm more interested in what she has to offer in the cinema world. But I do hope the show goes well for her and she builds off the foundation that she started with Tiny Furniture.
I will say though that comparisons to Woody Allen need to stop. Obviously, an opinion is an opinion, but come on. Give the young girl a break. Who could live up to such comparisons? And subsequent expectations? More than that, she has not made anything that could even approach "mediocre" Woody Allen. By the time Woody Allen was making "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan," he had already had a strong cinematic voice that he would explore over and over. Lena Dunham hasn't found that voice yet, not in the cinematic sense, at least.
So, that's where I stand with Lena Dunham. She hasn't made anything that would make me want to be a fan of hers, not yet. But, I think she deserves to have the chance to prove the naysayers wrong and I want that to happen. She is, without a doubt, being given that chance as well. I hope she makes the most of it.
I guess you could call this a case of someone just getting tired of people's cynicism. Every day, people just seem to get bitchier, meaner, and more cynical. Everyone has their own opinion, and thanks to social networking, they can express their opinion without second-guessing themselves. So when someone like Lena Dunham comes around, she's just the perfect opportunity for those types of people to come out of the woodwork. It's not that people aren't allowed to criticize her, hell, half of this blog post is a criticism of her. I just think people need to stop being so volatile and petty with their criticism. Her movie is dull, its placement in the Criterion Collection feels unwarranted, I agree with all of that. It just doesn't need to go any further than that. She has her new tv show now, let's see how she does with that. That's basically all I'm trying to say.