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The Puffy Chair

It’s The Journey That Counts

Few journeys have begun more inauspiciously than the road trip undertaken in The Puffy Chair. For Josh, a struggling musician/booking agent/boyfriend, an old purple recliner is the inspiration for his travels. But, as is often the case, it’s the journey that counts, not the destination.

Josh (played by Mark Duplass) is a screwed up, confused would-be musician in his late 20s, who just can’t seem to get his act together. On the eve of his father’s birthday he gets nostalgic over a purple recliner he sees on Ebay. Eerily reminiscent of the recliner he grew up with, Josh decides to purchase the recliner and surprise his father on his birthday.

A seemingly solid enough plan becomes a bit more complicated when Josh’s girlfriend decides to tag along. Complicating matters further is the addition of Josh’s eccentric brother, Rhett who hitches a ride as well. Josh’s van becomes a pressure cooker that forces a myriad of issues to bubble to the surface in short order.

One wonders how much of The Puffy Chair is based on personal experience. The Duplass Brothers have collaborated on two previous shorts, "This is John" and "Scrapple", both of which were based on Mark and Jay’s own experiences. Writer/star Mark Duplass and his director/brother Jay Duplass know their subject matter well.

The Puffy Chair’s story is simple, but entertaining for the relatively short 85 minute runtime. It’s hard not to draw comparisons between this film and David O. Russell’s brilliant comedic roadtrip, Flirting With Disaster. The Duplass’ brothers channel some of Russell’s humor sans the pronounced neuroticism that was rampant in Flirting With Disaster.

While the characters that inhabit The Puffy Chair are not markedly neurotic, they possess their own brand of eccentricity that makes them identifiable and endearing for the most part. Mark Duplass’s Josh is not the most complex individual, but is likable enough as a confused, warmhearted screw-up.

Rhett Wilkins plays Josh’s granola-esque brother, Rhett. A weird mix of tree hugger, new age philosophizer, and hopeless romantic, Wilkin’s performance provides several quality laughs and moments of complete absurdity.

Rounding out the primary cast is Kathryn Aselton who plays Josh’s love interest, Emily. Unfortunately, Emily’s only real quality of note is her ardent desire for commitment from Josh. The Duplass brothers could have fleshed out Emily a bit more.

The Puffy Chair isn’t necessarily a stellar feature debut for the brothers Duplass, but it’s far from a waste of time. Mark and Jay create a story that is humorous, entertaining, and earnest. Relationships are complicated and not always what they seem. It’s not an earth shattering message, but The Puffy Chair explores the idea in a fairly clever and engaging way.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars