After dozing off early in the evening and waking up long before I had any intention to, I sat down with Netflix and watched the Duplass brothers’ The Puffy Chair. This is their 2005 film about a young man and his girlfriend who go on a road trip to deliver a La-Z-Boy recliner to his father as a birthday present, and are subsequently faced with deep-seated problems plaguing their relationship.
There’s a deep emotional honesty to The Puffy Chair that comes through in its naturalism, something that’s attained through its improvisatory approach and micro-budget nature. The relationship anchoring the film has issues that go both ways, and there’s never an easy answer to each characters’ sufferings. Narratively, the film flows well, and utilizes a simple but effective metaphor in the titular chair. It can be fixed and made to look new again, but it’s not the same chair it once was, nor will it ever be. The troubled history is still there.
The film is a micro-budget production, and was made for what passes for a meager $15,000 in 2004. The film is shot on very basic digital video tapes, so the images ultimately come out flat, but that’s the limitations of the technology available to these filmmakers, and it shouldn’t be held against them. They make the almost camcorder look work in their favor pretty often, although the film is mostly carried by its great performances. Mark Duplass and Katie Aselton (Of the TV show The League) are especially great as the central couple, and come off very naturally. At times, they’re even heartbreaking, and sell big moments without going over the top.
In the end, I liked The Puffy Chair. It’s insightful and honest, and displays some solid work given the filmmakers’ budgetary restrictions. Losing sleep sucks, but I got this movie in after a while of putting it off.