The Puffy Chair (Director: Jay Duplass, USA, 2005): The Puffy Chair was the recipient of significant buzz after it won the Audience Award at the South by Southwest film festival in 2005, and the fact that a film made for $15,000 can even get released on DVD is pretty impressive, so I was curious to see what all the fuss was about.
Created by the Duplass Brothers (Jay directs, while brother Mark plays the lead), the film is a road movie that traces the deterioration of twenty-something slacker couple Josh and Emily’s relationship. Josh has purchased the titular chair on eBay as a gift for his father’s upcoming birthday, and the plan is for him to drive from New York to his parents’ home in Atlanta, picking up the chair along the way. Circumstances conspire such that not only does Emily end up coming along, but Josh’s even-more-aimless and psychobabble-spouting brother Rhett joins them as well. The comedy is of the Curb Your Enthusiasm variety, with situations spiralling out of control for no good reason except one character or another’s refusal to back down or admit their mistake. I happen to love this kind of uncomfortable humour, and a scene near the beginning where Josh tries to rent a motel room for the group while pretending to be just one person is hilarious.
Other reviewers have pointed to the film’s strength in documenting the damaged relationship between Josh and Emily, and while I can agree intellectually, I guess I’m a little too far removed from my twenties to really feel it so strongly. Both of them are pretty manipulative and immature, and it took a while for me to warm to them. As film characters, I didn’t mind spending 90 minutes with them, but I’d really hate to have real friends like this. (Sorry, hipsters).
Technically, the film was as good as it could be based on the miniscule budget. I did find the incessant small zooms distracting, as well as the frequent loss of focus. But the script wasn’t bad, and some of the situations were genuinely funny. The chemistry between the actors was good as well, and by the end, despite what I said above, I was really hoping that somehow Josh and Emily could salvage things and maybe learn something from their strange journey. The film’s abrupt ending made me realize that I cared about these screwups more than I thought.
Official site for the film