the Puffy Chair
The troublesome object at the heart of this winning debut feature by the Duplass brothers (Jay writes and directs; Mark writes and stars) is a plush old recliner chair — the kind you might need to be pried out of — that 20-something Josh (Duplass) has won in an eBay auction as a birthday present for his dad. The plan is simple: Josh will drive from New York to Atlanta, with longtime girlfriend Emily (Kathryn Aselton) in tow, stopping briefly to pick up his purchase along the way. Perhaps you’ve already guessed that the getting there isn’t as easy as all that, nor is the chair — a battered heap of rips, tears and cigarette burns. If this sounds like the premise for a reality series on the Home & Garden network, consider that The Puffy Chair is about the delicate art of reupholstery, not only as it applies to furniture, but to people. Marooned in some off-the-map backwater while Puffy undergoes emergency surgery, Josh and Emily begin to examine the stains and tears in their own relationship (Josh’s fear of commitment chief among them), and to wonder whether it’s possible to patch things back up. What follows is as surprising as it is excruciatingly truthful, in a movie that turns on a dime from high farce to high drama and back again with breezy, exhilarating confidence. Shot for no money on digital video and starring actors you’ve never heard of giving wonderfully natural performances, The Puffy Chair is the funniest, saddest and most emotionally honest “romantic comedy” to come along in years, even if I’ve yet to encounter many over the age of about 35 who like the film, or even get it. Then again, the movie is very much about what it means to be in your late 20s or early 30s (the respective ages of the Duplass brothers), unsure of what you want from the world and still making foolish adolescent decisions — and that may be a time in life to which few who have survived it are eager to return. (Nuart)
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