The Puffy Chair

Now that Netflix has conquered the home video rental market, it can set its sights on other things, like distribution of theatrical releases.  And why distribute something the old-fashioned way (film), when they can piggyback on new technology and go digital?  The Puffy Chair is a Netflix-distributed digital film that is bare bones in its budget and independent in spirit.  And this isn't necessarily a good thing.  The budget is extremely low and the dialogue and acting attempt to be as true-to-life as possible, in this standard story about how a road trip changes people.

This is the first full-length feature film for brothers Jay (who directed) and Mark (who wrote and stars) Duplass.  The dialogue is painfully realistic, almost too much at some points.  Instead of watching a movie, it feels like watching three people in a van, often arguing.  The plot is about Josh (Mark Duplass), an ordinary guy who bought a puffy chair off eBay.  It's a present for his father, and he's going to pick it up and drive it home for his dad's birthday.  Tagging along for the ride are his girlfriend Emily (Kathryn Aselton) and an uninvited guest, his brother Rhett (Rhett Wilkins, Crocodile), who is a bit New Age-y in his beliefs.

The trek is physically and mentally torturous, as nothing seems to go as planned.  Moreover, Josh and Emily are at a crucial point in their relationship.  Josh seems to shut down emotionally whenever something important is about to happen, and Emily really resents this.  They get into a big fight at the beginning of The Puffy Chair, the night before the big trip begins.  Spending excessive amounts of time in a cramped car with an unexpected guest is not a formula for success, especially when things do not go according to plan.

It seems like the Duplass brothers were aiming for realism and tension, mixed with a few bits of comedy in their script.  Aside from a great Say Anything reference at the beginning, most of the humor is a bit lame.  And much of the tension feels forced, and worse, sometimes manufactured.  The Josh character sometimes acts like a normal guy, and sometimes acts too much like a character in a movie.  There's a scene at a motel that is played for laughs, but doesn't really make any logical sense at all.  The Puffy Chair is basically three people talking and arguing over the course of the film.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 25 minutes, Rated R for language.

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