HBO’S ‘Girls’: A scruffy side of the city

Achingly funny; raunchy, too

- By Robert Bianco

Even if you don’t like Girls, keep an eye on Lena Dunham.

As funny and creative as her show may be, there’s little doubt Girls will be too explicit, too New York-specific, and too young-and-female-centric to appeal to everyone. But talent will out — and as creator, director and star of this new HBO sitcom, Dunham is clearly a talent to be reckoned with.

Dunham stars as Hannah, an aspiring writer in Manhattan who’s about to face her first crisis. After two years of unemployed, post-graduate financial support, her parents are cutting her off.

“This feels very arbitrary,” she complains — a line that, in Dunham’s hands, comes across as petulant yet self-deprecator­y, exaggerate­d and yet true. She has a way of writing and saying lines that hit multiple notes at once, including some that initially strike you as sweet and only later land as sarcastic.

And just when you think her performanc­e could become self-indulgent, she does something so absolutely fearless in its embrace of potential humiliatio­n that it takes your breath away.

Many of those things, parents should note, involve sex — a subject treated with a comical frankness that borders on the clinical. (Anal sex, AIDS, her own body image, all are grist for Dunham’s mill.) Standards vary, but people with children would be advised to watch Girls themselves before allowing anyone in the house who actually qualifies as a girl to watch.

Happily, what adults may notice is a refreshing lack of pretense in Dunham’s work. She’s not claiming to be the voice of her generation (an idea she dis- misses in a joke) or pretending that her generation has a monopoly on wisdom or problems. She’s simply writing what she knows, and incredibly well.

As the title indicates, Hannah is not facing New York alone. She has a sweet, pretty, supportive roommate, Marnie (a very appealing turn by Allison Williams); a bohemian friend, Jessa (Jemima Kirke); and an innocent companion, Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet).

Any show about four young women in New York is bound to recall HBO’S biggest comedy hit, Sex and the City, but Girls is a much scruffier show. (Odds are these young women couldn’t afford even one of Carrie’s dresses if they pooled all their resources.) Where Sex celebrated the New York high life, Girls’ approach is better represente­d by Hannah’s laconic response to a doctor who tells her, “You could not pay me enough to be 24 again”: “Well, they’re not paying me at all.”

Obviously, HBO is paying Dunham. And whatever she is being paid, she is earning every penny.

 ?? By Jojo Whilden, HBO ?? One of the Girls: Lena Dunham writes, directs and stars.
By Jojo Whilden, HBO One of the Girls: Lena Dunham writes, directs and stars.

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