Lena Dunham

In director Lena Dunham’s painfully farcical new coming-of-age comedy, Tiny Furniture, the young heroine, Aura (Dunham), is forced to confront the harsh reality of so many well-educated twentysomethings: she’s out of college, unemployed, living at home, and resenting the hell out of everything. Aura, though, must also contend with the added pressures of cohabiting a downtown New York City loft with her far more successful artist mother, her precocious younger sister, and a scruffy YouTube star she meets at a party, who becomes the most dubious of romantic interests. No wonder Aura ends up breaking down halfway through the film. “I’m a young, young person,” she yells, “who is trying very hard!” This self-pitying generational war cry strikes particularly close to home for the 24-year-old Dunham, who wrote and directed Tiny Furniture and tapped her real-life younger sister and artist mother, Laurie Simmons, to play the corresponding characters in the film. After graduating from Oberlin College two years ago, Dunham returned to New York and, like Aura, couldn’t sort out her own travails with love, life, or employment. She eventually felt her way out of the postgraduate abyss by making a Web series called Delusional Downtown Divas, a satire that plays wise on certain archetypes of the New York art scene. As in most of her original work thus far, Dunham wrote, directed, and acted in the series. In her raw but auspicious first feature, Creative Nonfiction (2009), Dunham also drew on her own experiences at college in Ohio for the plot. But the excitement around Tiny Furniture, which won best narrative at the SXSW Film Festival this year and will be released by IFC this month, has not only transformed her talent for creating neurotic comedic drama into a viable career, it’s opened the door to a new life. “I have an agent now,” she says. “I wish I had the audacity to call and say, ‘Get me Spielberg!’ Instead I’m just like, ‘Thank you!’ ”

Photo: Lena Dunham in New York, July 2010. Jacket: 3.1 Phillip Lim. T-shirt: Bebe. Necklace: Dunham’s own. Hair products: Redken, including Guts 10 Volume Spray Foam. Fragrance: Bebe sheer. Styling: Andreas Kokkino/Marek & Associates. Hair: Holli Smith for Cutler/Redken/Community NYC. Makeup: Stevie Huynh/The Wall Group.