Worth A Look: 42.55%
Pretty Bad: 2.13%
Total Crap: 4.26%
4 reviews, 23 user ratings
|Puffy Chair, The
by Jason Whyte
SCREENED AT THE 2007 VICTORIA INDEPENDENT FILM AND VIDEO FESTIVAL: I just watched the most amazing film. It snuck up on me with its hand-held camera trickery, dug its claws in and refused to let go. It’s this kind of quirky character study that when you watch it, the thing just stays with you. It becomes a part of you and you identify with it. You recommend it to people, try not to punch them when the first thing they ask you is “Who’s in it?” and even if they don’t like it, fuck ‘em…you love it, and nobody can take it away from you.84 quick but beautiful moments passed by where I related to every last nook and cranny of “The Puffy Chair”. I loved this movie. I LOVED this movie. I FUCKING LOVED THIS MOVIE (I normally don’t swear in my reviews, but to get my point across that you must see this film, I have no choice but to do it). I wish I could have ridden the Sundance wave and become the personal publicists to Mark and Jay Duplass (the directors of the film), but the best I can do is beg people to pick up the recently released DVD and hope the word can get out for this gem of independent cinema.
"An indie-cinema break on through to the other side."
The story is one simple but elegant. There’s a couple that is in a long term relationship that seems to be pulling apart at the seems. Josh (Mark Duplass) and Emily (Kathryn Aselton) have been dating for years. Josh has purchased an old recliner chair off of Ebay to give to his father, and wants to take Emily on a road trip to pick it up. Along the way, they pick up Josh’s free-spirited brother Rhett (Rhett Wilkins) and take him along to get the chair. When the chair doesn’t turn out the way it is supposed to and Rhett finds love of his own, Josh and Emily’s relationship come to a head, and meanwhile there’s this puffy chair that doesn’t look like the one in the Ebay picture.
There’s a moment in the road-trip journey of “The Puffy Chair” where Josh pulls into a hotel parking lot and tells Emily and Rhett to stay in the car. She asks why. Josh explains that if he just checks in by himself, he’ll only have to pay single occupancy, “Which saves us like $10 bucks.” And he’s serious. Josh is a penny-pincher. Holy crap, I’m a penny pincher! I’ve done money-saving scams at cinema ATM’s, theatre hopped and even done the same thing at a hotel once. It’s as if Mark and Jay Duplass created this sequence for me and for the victimless crime-mongers in all of us.
Josh and Emily have their own lingo. They call each other “dude” and “man” a lot without even thinking about it. Their fights are petty, explosive and they make up quickly. You see Emily without makeup and Josh make a complete ass out of himself and apologize where necessary. This is how people talk and act around each other, and the brilliance is how these two disappear so much in their beautifully natural, realized performances that quite possibly are the most honest, most realistic performances I have ever seen in an independent film.
Mark Duplass reminds me of a younger Ron Livingston, although Duplass has his own form of brilliant comedic timing that is so funny in how deadpan it is. I loved a moment where he profusely says sorry to the hotel desk clerk that he scammed, and there’s another moment where he squares off against an upholsterer comes at you so unexpectedly that you’re as stunned as the next guy.
Kathryn Aselton is a revelation. I see nothing but stardom for this girl. Absolutely alive in every scene she’s in, she’s a breath of fresh air as an actress who sees, feels, critiques at will and has an air of wisdom about her. Aselton does the rare gift of making you read just the slightest quirk of her eyes as she cuts you down to size. She’s the kind of knockout beauty that has no problem being Josh’s girlfriend, but his best friend too. Mention must also be made to Rhett Wilkins, whose Rhett is part childish, part world-wisdom and he finds just the right note without going into overacting.
A lot of the negative comments are going to go to the film’s camerawork, which is created in a documentary-like style on digital video. Let’s get it right out of the way: it looks grungy. Shots are out of focus, with bizarre close-ups, cuts and sequences that are massively underlit. In fact, in Kathryn Aselton’s best scene in the movie, where she cries that she would marry Josh if she asked him, you can’t even see her eyes. Yet, if this was the exact same movie directed by Lars von Trier, the same people would be calling it a masterpiece. I’m all for shooting on film and making the best looking picture possible, but the brothers Duplass make up for it in strong form in other aspects. Look at what is there instead of what isn’t.
What is also splendid about “The Puffy Chair” is how the film wisely sidesteps all the comedic clichés that we’ve seen oh so many times. There’s a sequence where Rhett begs to get out of the car after an argument, and the scene would normally require the car to pull over and the fight spill onto the highway, but instead the car just keeps on driving. And a final sequence that is so honest, so beautiful that it slaps the face of every breakup scene in film history.I love it when a movie like this comes across your way. It hits you, it drives you to an emotional state and it releases you into a deep state of thought once the end credits scroll on the screen. Sure, it’s all hand-held, there’s no “names” and it’s made on the cheap, but this is the kind of movie that even major audiences should be seeing these days, not just the indie-lovers crowd. “The Puffy Chair” announces a new kind of honest, real filmmaking that I want to see much more often.
link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=11279&reviewer=350
originally posted: 02/13/07 15:52:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2006 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2006 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.