By Matthew Bramlett |Arts & Entertainment Editor|
“Girls,” HBO’s newest offering and the brainchild of writer/director/star Lena Dunham, is a vaguely autobiographical show about privileged twenty-somethings and their desire to carve out a name for themselves in New York City.
Dunham plays Hannah, a 24-year-old aspiring writer who is trying to write a memoir while lacking the life experiences to write an actual memoir. She survives solely on a monthly stipend from her college professor parents and works at an unpaid internship for a trendy Manhattan publishing firm.
It is during the opening scene, where Hannah’s parents decide to cut her off after two years of financing her lifestyle, that everything begins to crumble. Hannah seeks solace from her best friend Marnie (Allison Williams), spacey world-traveler Jessa (Jemima Kirke) and hyperactive college girl Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet), as well as her jerk of a boyfriend (Adam Driver) who calls her his slave and awkwardly tries to have anal sex with her.
One may think she begins to figure her life out after this financial death-blow, but Hannah reacts in the most immature way possible. She begs her parents to keep financing her, dreads the possibility of finding work at a fast food job that she thinks is beneath her, takes drugs and steals 20 bucks that her parents left for a hotel maid.
Hannah is living in quiet despair as the life she felt entitled to begins to slowly fall apart. But at the same time, she still thinks she is better than everyone else to the point where she would rather steal from someone who is genuinely making an effort to survive in the city than try to find a real job.
The show plays out like a live-action version of a Tao Lin book; four listless creatures who are suffering from crippling bouts of post-college depression. Indeed, one of Lin’s works, Eeeee Eee Eeee, makes a cameo in an early scene.
It’s the antithesis of the “Sex and the City” mystique – where four feminine friends romp around Manhattan with unfathomable amounts of disposable incomes and a long list of gorgeous millionaire boyfriends. Shoshanna, who mulls over whether she is more ‘Carrie’ or more ‘Samantha,’ serves as an homage to the outdated and hyper-optimistic worldview of that show.
These characters may be inherently unlikable, but they are certainly familiar. Everyone knows someone who dreams of moving to the city to pursue some farfetched dream of being a writer or an artist or a musician.
“Girls” takes this notion and runs with it, serving up a heaping helping of dark reality. It’s hard to determine if the show is an earnest portrait of self-absorbed people trying to make it big or a parody of it, which may actually be one of the show’s biggest strengths.
A noticeable aspect that stands out among all this is Dunham herself. While she has certainly earned her success (the episode is beautifully directed and aptly acted), the 25-year-old recent college grad is essentially living the life her characters dream of.
In fact, one can’t help but see Hannah as a character study of what would logically happen if Dunham wasn’t as lucky or successful, sort of like Brad Pitt’s character in “Burn After Reading.”
Hannah may be a total bummer to watch, but she is closer to Dunham’s heart than people think.