The Puffy Chair was the Duplass brothers’ first feature film. I’m not sure I would have pegged it as such; maybe I would have been tipped of by an unsteady hand-held camera in the first few scenes, or a sharp zoom in on a moving van that feels like “Hey, look what this camera can do!” At any rate, it was well-received by the critics, deservedly.
Mark Duplass plays Josh, a fledgling booker of indie bands; Emily (Kathryn Aselton) is Josh’s girlfriend (and I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember the non-Josh aspects of her life). We first meet them throwing cuteness bombs at one another, which means either they are just really, annoyingly cute or their relationship has a lot of emptiness to conceal. But Emily blows up when he is distracted by a phone call, and with an eye to reconciliation he invites her to join him on a road trip. He’s driving from New York to Atlanta for his father’s birthday, and on the way he’s picking up a gift–an overstuffed recliner he bought on the Internet. He also stops in Philly to see his brother Rhett (Rhett Wilkins), who asks to come along. Um, okay. (Awkward.)
So that’s the setup, and the trip is a chance for Josh to learn about relationships and best-laid plans, and most of the movie is enjoyable and feels true (though aspects of Josh’s personality come out that, surprisingly, surprise his girlfriend and his brother). There are some funny set pieces, one concerning a shared motel room and another involving the pickup of the titular chair. In the end a couple of the characters reach a conclusion much of the audience will have seen coming for some time, but we don’t mind; some decisions take a while.