Monday, May 31, 2010

Kicking Back in The Puffy Chair

by Jason Pyles

I love it when movies aren’t really about what we think they’re about. The Duplass brothers’ film, “The Puffy Chair,” is one such example. There is indeed a puffy chair in the film, but it’s merely a macguffin, which is a term often attributed to Hitchcock that he used to describe an object that serves as a plot device to move the story along but has no other purpose.

In “The Puffy Chair,” Josh’s father’s birthday is approaching, so he buys a recliner on eBay like one his dad used to own. He decides to take a long road trip to pick up the chair and deliver it to his father in Atlanta. Naturally, Josh acquires some unintended travel companions and many set-backs, because after all, “drama is conflict.”

This is an independent film, obviously made on a shoestring budget, but this is one of those special occasions where those facts end up enhancing the film. The likable characters and their actors’ naturalistic performances make this all seem familiar to us, like an odd adventure we’ve heard from our friends.

Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass (who stars as Josh — a not-too-distant cousin to John Krasinski’s Jim Halpert) co-wrote the film together, and they both directed, though the latter is uncredited. I am impressed with their work and look forward to checking out some of their other films, such as “Baghead” (2008). I should also mention that I found Katie Aselton’s Emily and Rhett Wilkins’ Rhett characters especially engaging. Each member of the traveling trio complements the onscreen misadventures and one another.

I liked “The Puffy Chair” most because of how funny it is! I laughed out loud several times from the very first scene. The tone shifts quite a bit, but I think that lends to its humorous powers.

Ultimately, “The Puffy Chair” is a tale about acquisition and loss and how one is just as easy as the other. Some of the developments seem unlikely and are a little disappointing, but I have to appreciate how unexpected they are.

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