Nightlife :: Special Events

The Puffy Chair

by Phil Hall
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Saturday Jun 17, 2006
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From the why-did-they-even-bother school of no-budget indie filmmaking comes the Duplass Brothers (who?) and their feature film debut The Puffy Chair.

Josh is a failed booking agent for small-time rock groups. When his life comes apart at the seams, he heads off with his clingy girlfriend on a road trip to North Carolina to pick up a purple reclining chair he won in an eBay auction. The chair is a birthday gift for his father - it is a duplicate of a 1985 Lazy Boy model that was part of Josh’s childhood home. Along the way, they pick up Josh’s brother Rhett, a spacey would-be filmmaker with close-cropped hair and bushy beard more in keeping with al-Qaeda chic than contemporary American indie fringes. Together, these four clashing personalities (the three people and the chair, which is too big for their van) make for an uncomfortable journey.

This is the road film that Hope and Crosby never made: the road to nowhere. It is difficult to determine what’s worse - the Duplass Brothers’ witless and pointless screenplay, Jay Duplass’ sloppy direction (plenty of handheld camera movement and tight close-ups that may have been fresh for John Cassavetes circa 1968 but seem stale today), or Mark Duplass’ nonexistent acting as Josh (the man has absolutely no talent).

The production seems like an excessively ambitious home movie by a pair of cine-snobs who’ve seen too many art house flicks and think they can do better. Scenes dribble on endlessly and have no sensible resolution; it often appears the Duplass Brothers have no clue how to build a scene or bring it to a conclusion. Like the characters, the film wanders endlessly and talks endlessly but achieves nothing for its tiremsome efforts.

In fairness, Kathryn Aselton is surprisingly appealing as Emily, even though her character is supposed to be a demanding and difficult woman, and Rhett Wilkins has some appealing goofy charm as the funky brother. Aselton and Wilkins try valiant to make this glorified home movie into something special - perhaps good fortune or good agents will get them into films where their talents will be on proper display.

Phil Hall is the author of "The Greatest Bad Movies of All Time

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