The Puffy Chair (2005)

DVD Cover (Red Envelope Entertainment)
Comedy Drama, Road Movie, Romantic Comedy
Jay Duplass Jay Duplass
Mark Duplass Mark Duplass
Mark Duplass Mark Duplass
Katie Aselton Katie Aselton
Rhett Wilkins Rhett Wilkins
Julie Fischer Julie Fischer
Larry Duplass Larry Duplass

6.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: September 28, 2005
Sometimes, simple works best. This simplicity can result from the director's desire to make a simple picture, or that simplicity can result from a lack of money. I would bet this film suffers from a little bit of both. "The Puffy Chair" is as realistic as they come in depicting the ups and downs of modern relationships. Sometimes it goes kind of over the top in its depiction of these ups and downs, but for the most part, it normals out and seems plausible. Director Jay Duplass obviously possesses a penchant for capturing human emotions on screen, and "The Puffy Chair" feeds off that talent. When these characters are embroiled in a conversation, or an argument, we feel as if we are right there with them, battling it out just as ferociously as if we were. I couldn't help but feel the director probably has a negative outlook towards relationships, even though the Q & A that followed the screening might prove otherwise. "The Puffy Chair" was a great way for me to kick off the festival this year, and it certainly was one of those unsuspected prizes at the bottom of the cinematic Cracker Jack box.

Mark Duplass stars as Josh, an individual who is just as quirky as he is painstakingly normal. He use to be in a band, but now serves as a small time booking agent. His long time girlfriend Emily (Kathryn Aselton) loves him, but does not really like the direction in which the relationship is heading. The plot takes off when Josh purchases an old recliner off E-Bay -- 'the puffy chair' -- a replica of a chair his father once owned. His plan is to drive down to Atlanta and give the chair to his father on his birthday. When he invites Emily along for the road trip, things get a bit more complicated. In addition to this, his plan goes up in smoke when his earthy, sensitive brother Rhett (Rhett Wilkins) decides the best gift he can give his father is himself. Thus, he tags along. What ensues is a series of pit-stops and pratfalls that send the trio down a long, winding road of uncertainty, collision, and the unexpected. By the end of the film, we have a pretty good sense of what these characters are all about, and just why they seem confined to their collective fates.

What really took me by surprise were the performances. All three leads give amazing performances here, especially Mark Duplass and Kathryn Aselton. These actors possess the emotional complexity you would expect to find in something from Atom Egoyan or Ang Lee. They carry this film on the shoulders, and litter it with heart, humor, and hell-raising. I also give director Jay Duplass credit for the camera-work. He it on auto-focus for the entire shoot and that little detail adds so much realism to the work. That would not add to most films, but it does to "The Puffy Chair". Also outstanding was the gradual building up of the tension between Josh and Emily. We can tell early on that their relationship is troubled, and as they continue on their road trip, we see that relationship start to wear down. In this, we get a keen insight into why people so much in love should not spend so much time together. It does nothing but work to their disadvantage as a couple.

The most serious problem with "The Puffy Chair" was the lack of direction. If you are going to make a film about relationships, make sure the audiences knows it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I had a hard time accepting that this was a film about a man and a woman. First, there was the introduction and the treatment of the character of Rhett. Was he really needed, other than to provide some occasional comic relief and the antagonist to the recliner? I also thought the character of Emily -- though played to precision -- was a bit annoying. She was the least likable character in the film, a real party-pooper and someone I would consider to be an unpleasant person. When Josh finally lets her have it, I wanted to cheer. She goes through the entire first part of the film on some throne, which is totally unnecessary when you consider how lax she is, as a person, and as a significant other.

When all was said and done, "The Puffy Chair" managed to entertain the hell out of me for ninety minutes or so. This is one of those films, like "Melvin Goes to Dinner" from a couple years back, that is going to need lots of word of mouth to get any kind of following. I wouldn't go so far as to say that this was fluff, because the film really does have a serious undertone and a pretty hefty message about love, but I will say that this film was not the kind of typical film festival fare that I am use to seeing. Maybe this script needed more attention -- a larger budget and more depth. The ending is meant to be all emotional and such a revelation, but it really just seems like a cheap way out of a good motion picture. Director Jay Duplass, during his Q & A session noted how the ending was 'real'. I didn't think the ending was real. I thought the ending was tacked on, just like the title. The title has about as much to do with the film as Elizabeth Berekely does to with acting. "The Puffy Chair" was a nice film to watch, but nothing monumental.

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