Say what you will about her and the merits of her existing as part of the esteemed Criterion Collection, Lena Dunham is not only for real, but as posited by her character in her new HBO series, ‘Girls,’ she may in fact be the voice of this generation. And no, not a voice of a generation, as she is brilliantly both part of while also playing up what it truly is like to be a part of this very young age bracket.
The Tiny Furniture helmer brought the first three episodes of her previously named series, which finds itself on HBO and produced by the incomparable Judd Apatow, and follows the story of a group of twenty-something women in New York trying to make a go of being in that moment. Hannah, our lead played by Dunham herself, is an intern funded by her parents, who at the very start of the first episode, decide to take their finances out of the hands of their daughter. Toss in a world traveling best friend returning, her neurotic cousin, and a long time best friend with boyfriend issues and you have the premise of what very much is ‘Sex And The City’ by way of a female Whit Stillman. And if it’s not the best TV I’ve seen in years, I have no idea what is.
With only three episodes to reference, the only thing to really take home from this presentation is Dunham and her stunningly mature voice. Everything one could take out of something like Furniture is found here. Her whip smart comedic timing, brilliantly penned female roles, and percussive dialogue only found in films from the likes of the aforementioned Metropolitan director.
Visually, Dunham is working within her comfort zone here. Quite intimate without feeling intrusive, the camera both loves these characters, and yet has no issue showing just how their quirks affect their lives, their world and their loved ones. A few cartoonish sequences are found here (particularly a trip out scene in the third episode), but it never feels out of the box or out of the ordinary for what is very much a heightened world with a heightened sense of reality.
Performance wise, this film is beyond reproach. Dunham kills here as our lead, getting to something even bigger about her work as a whole. She is not only able to write this demographic to a t, but is also able to portray her characters with such a distinctly true and realistic voice, that it never seems like pandering or performance art. Immensely relatable, each of her works preaches to something true within the psyche of this generation, and their fear of both failure and isolation.
Jemima Kirke is fine here, if a tad shrill, but fitting of a role written in that very voice. Allison Williams steals here as Hannah’s best friend, as does Zosia Mamet, the traveling former bestie to our lead. Supporting performances include Alex Karpovsky (also seen briefly in the fellow SXSW hit Sleepwalk With Me, as well as Tiny Furniture), but Jorma Taccone steals the show here in a brief role as an artist, which was hinted at in a Q/A as being a one time role this season, but a recurring role later on in the narrative.
Overall, while this show may not work well with the older set, the story will hit home for men and women alike, particularly within the demographic she is portraying. The voice of this post-grad, lost in the world generation, Dunham is doing something many people wondered if she could do. For a career based partially on people taking risks (HBO with this series, SXSW with her first feature, Creative Nonfiction) she is not only coming into her own, but Lord be damned if she isn’t proving herself as one of the most exciting names in film and television.