The Puffy Chair Jay Duplass

I’m on the fence as to what to think of this micro-budgeted indie: part of me wants to chide it for its blunt simplicity, and part of me likes where the openhearted filmmakers took me.

The film begins in typical "films about relationships” territory, with small-time promoter Josh (Mark Duplass) and his girlfriend, Emily (Katherine Aselton), having a tiff over a phone call during a romantic dinner. It’s here that we’re introduced to the film’s dubious concept: that Josh will drive to pick up a puffy chair that is a double for the one his father used to have, then drive to his father’s birthday and present it as a strange totemic gesture.

Early scenes seemed artless and the concept questionable, with my worries further compounded by the arrival of Josh’s new age-y brother, Rhett (Rhett Wilkins), on the awkward odyssey to Atlanta. But the film is refreshingly free of the cute bull that poison most indies (and most majors concerned with romance), as Emily keeps trolling for her man’s commitment while he continually refuses romantic gestures.

By midpoint, the film had surprised me by being honest and direct about the reasons for the couple’s relationship troubles, and wound up impressing me with an affecting ending right out of leftfield. Throw in some genuinely fine performances (especially by Wilkins) and you have a special sort of film.

There’s still a little too much dead air and director Jay Duplass sure likes the zoom feature on his camera, but a little clear-eyed seriousness goes a long way here.

(Mongrel Media)