pains in the ass: Aselton and Duplass in The Puffy Chair.
Close for Comfort
by Jay Duplass
concept of The Puffy Chair sounds like a cross between When
Harry Met Sally and You, Me and Dupree: Cranky guy and naïve
girl take a road trip, during which they pick up an unexpected
companion, cranky guy’s younger brother, flaky guy. Of course,
the low, low-budget Puffy Chair was an audience favorite at
the Sundance festival, so there are some significant differences
between it and those more-mainstream features. It’s better
acted; it’s better written; and it’s less pandering. In a
word, it’s more believable—which is part of the problem.
The Puffy Chair presents an entirely credible account of the
tenuous romantic relationship between a couple of needy and/or
self-absorbed 20-somethings; perhaps too credible for the
comfort of those of us not long out of our own needy, self-absorbed
20-something-ish relationships. Brothers Jay and Mark Duplass—the
director and writer-star, respectively—have put together an
awkwardly intimate look at characters whom we will recognize
all too well: Josh (Duplass), the immature and bullying indie-rock
boyfriend; Emily (Kathryn Aselton), the clingy and self-esteem-impaired
girlfriend; Rhett, the quasi-mystic and irresponsible tagalong.
Though of seemingly different temperaments, these three are
untied in their passive-aggression and adolescent selfishness.
The handheld camera work and the highly naturalistic acting
give the film the feel of a documentary, which is both a strength
and a weakness: The viewer feels as if they are cooped up
in the same rental van, in the same cheap motels, as this
annoying trio, listening to their petty squabbles and their
conciliatory baby-talk. By movie’s end, you wish to be fully
rid of each of them, quickly.
To the filmmakers’ credit, they, too, seem to feel this and
provide a far more likely conclusion than you’ll ever get
out of the likes of Nora Ephron. The movie convincingly duplicates
the feeling of a break-up: It’s an eagerly anticipated, wholly