Lena Dunham’s first full length feature was an indie film called “Tiny Furniture.” She served as director, writer and the main character. It was successfully received by critics and garnered her some wide praise. Soon after, she was approached by producer/director Judd Apatow (“Freaks and Geeks” and “The 40 Year Old Virgin”) to parlay her talents into a show for HBO. The result is “Girls” which debuted on the premium cable network in April of 2012, a show steeped in realistic emotions felt by relatable people.
Hanna Horvath (Lena Dunham) is an aspiring writer who is two years out of college and living in New York City with several of her friends from school. She is interning at a small publishing house for free with her lifestyle being funded by her loving parents. Her roommate is her best friend from college, Marnie (Allison Williams) who is questioning her relationship with her boyfriend of four years. Hanna is far from perfect; she says weird things during sex; she really doesn’t know what she is doing; she tells her parents she is doing fine financially even though she is not. She is procrastinating her life duties.
“Girls” is a show about survival. Not just in New York City but in the world. Only minutes into the first episode Hanna’s parents cut all of her funding and she gets fired from her internship after asking to be promoted to a paid position. She now has to figure out how to get a job without it interfering with her trying to become the world’s next great writer. Dunham’s character Hannah is a refreshingly real character with relatable problems and situations. She is not a glamorous looking prodigy whose main “issue” is to get into the hot [insert glamorous modeling/ad/tv agency here]. Even though she calls herself “a voice of a generation” (even she is not sure), there is no proof given in the show that she is actually a good writer. She is young and filled with idealism and creativity fueled by her human ego. She’s not dating the coolest, smartest or smoothest guy in the city. He’s kind of an ass across the board yet it feels authentic. You want him to be perfect (maybe because as viewers we’re used to seeing it in these situations) but he’s not and you can feel Hannah’s frustration with him.
It would be hard to not to hear the basic plot of the show and not want to compare it to “Sex and the City.” Dunham knows this and gets it out of the way in the first episode by having Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet) talk to her visiting cousin about she thinks she is most like the Carrie character. It’s not cheesy though. It works because Denham knows that many NYC women do make self comparisons to that show. What could have been a shallow idea filled with vapid fashionistas spewing pop references is surprisingly thoughtful and contemplative. The show deals with issues like abortion, sexual responsibility, debating if college is still a worthwhile endeavor and trying to find out what the real world is and how you fit into it during that transitional early twenties age.
Lena Dunham is a daring, bold and confident actress. She is funny in a relatable sort of way without relying on goofy antics. Her strengths lie in her ability to simplify life’s problems that most people make overly complicated. The dialogue in “Girls” is peppered with great terms like “Hate-reading” when referring to an obnoxious book that she read. When giving herself a pep talk in mirror before she meets up with some hometown high school classmates she says “You are from new York so you are naturally interesting.” It comes off as truthful and not arrogant. She’ll casually use words like “Overshare” when briefly talking about an ex with a guy she just met. Her delivery is pitch perfect for her writing. Denham also can act too. She is so in tune with what she needs to do for every scene that is comes off extremely natural. A great example is when she is staying with her parents back home and she conveys a comfortable irritation with them and it’s different than when she is around her friends. Again, very authentic.
I have no problem saying HBO’s visual presentation of “Girls” is near perfect. The show was shot using Arri ALexa HD cameras and it looks stunning. Every detail in the frame is razor sharp with no signs of post tampering or enhancement. Black levels hold up throughout with no visible crushing. Color are realistically rendered. This is one of the best all around images I have seen on Blu-ray.
The DTS-MA 5.1 track is also a winner. There is nothing that truly pushes the soundtrack to any extreme limits however for what it needs to do, it does it very well. Dialogue is clear and anchored nicely the front and ambiance swells through the back speakers smoothly. There’s some nice, albeit minimal, LFE during some of the music used in the show. For was the soundtrack intends to do, it does it perfectly. There is also a 5.1 DTS French track and a Spanish DTS 2.0 track.
The “Girls” Blu-ray has a nice assortment of extras that fans of the show will love. First off is a “A Conversation between Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham” which is a candid look into why the show was created. Dunham talks about how historically shows about women either show women that you are jealous of or hate. This inspired her to create a show to show how women really behave.
There are a bevy of “Deleted Scenes” that seemed like necessary cuts to each show but are fun to watch on their own. They range from being as short as 30 seconds up to 2-3 minutes long.
“Table Reads” is a look at the actors rehearsing many of the scenes informally. It is an interesting peak on how different the dialogue can sound when out of context.
There are two separate “Gag Reels” which are standard botching lines and laughing moments.
“Cast Auditions” is a look into several of the cast members during their filmed auditions.
Several commentaries accompany some of the episodes. They are mostly just informational on why certain creative moments happened.
There is also a “Making of Girls” extra that is mostly redundant of what comes before it. There are small moments of behind the scenes moments.
Not on the disc but in the packaging is a booklet full of Denham’s printed tweets during the production of the show.
“Girls” is a surprisingly thoughtful show dealing with a specific moment in young women’s lives where they are in a state of transition. Life seems to have slammed into them after college and they are simply trying to survive it while using experiences to help mold them for a possible brighter future. It has fantastic writing and the acting to match it. This is not just a show for women as we have all been there, it just so happens to be told from a women’s perspective. With near perfect audio and video as well as a nice spread of extras, this disc comes highly recommended.