Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tiny [USA, 2014]




Nine Things about the Movie Tiny

1. Capitalizing on the “maker” movement and the “downsizing” movement, this is supposed to be a small documentary (it’s barely an hour long) on the recent popularity of building tiny houses, which are houses under 400 square feet. But it’s not really a documentary. It’s a home-brewed screed against consumerism. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I was hoping for a more balanced and informative piece of filmmaking.

2. The movie follows a guy named Chris as he buys a piece of land in the middle of nowhere in Colorado, and builds a tiny house on a trailer. Chris is assisted by his angst-ridden girlfriend, who stresses on what is the meaning of “home”, probably because she wants to move to New York City while her boyfriend is getting ready to leave the entire civilized world behind.

3. Even though the movie is only lasts an hour, it’s about 30 minutes too long. It makes all of its points very quickly, and then repeats them over and over. This is why, in between watching scenes of Chris building his house like an HGTV special, we see lots of pictures of other tiny houses. Lots of pictures. Lots of them.

4. The movie also interviews other “tiny housers” while they wax romantic about their life perspectives. They are earnest and friendly, but they come off sounding a little smug and pretentious. They give us nuggets of wisdom like:
“The world gets a lot bigger when you’re living small.”
“The whole world is now my living room.”
“I wanted to be larger than the small person that I needed to be in my big house.”

5. Very little discussion is given to the problems of tiny houses, such as storage, occupancy, and privacy. And only once does the movie acknowledge the elephant in the room: Chris admits that there’s a weird irony in what he’s doing. He loves open spaces, so he bought some and built a house on it. But if everyone did that, there would be no more open spaces left.

6. I think it’s funny that one of the gurus of tiny housing lived for a decade in buildings of less than 100 square feet, but then broke down and bought a 500 square foot house to live in with his family. He has another tiny house in his backyard.

7. One thing the movie never really touches on is the psychological makeup of these tiny housers. A lot of them are the crunchy granola types. But Chris literally wants to live on a 10 x 12 foot slab of wood hundreds of miles from other people. He’s determined to do it whether his girlfriend stays with him or not. That’s really interesting, but it’s never explored. Probably because it’s his girlfriend doing most of the filming.

8. The movie tries to make you feel bad if you don’t want to be like these people, or if you are not in a position where you can do it (like if you have kids). And in case you don’t learn the lesson that tiny houses are a wonderful, natural state of being, the film ends with an aerial shot of Chris’s house surrounded by grass, trees, and a rainbow.

9. This movie is mildly interesting, but a lot of it is nothing more than personal home movie footage, and doesn’t really explore the topic like I was hoping. Perhaps most critically, the movie backfired on me. While I was neutral on the topic before I saw this, now I find that the fad of tiny housing is kind of silly, creepy, and hypocritical.