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The Puffy Chair

(2006) ** 1/2 Unrated
85 min. Roadside Attractions. Director: Jay Duplass. Cast: Mark Duplass, Kathryn Aselton, Rhett Wilkins, Julie Fischer, Bari Hyman.

The Puffy Chair is an indie comedy, but it played to me more like a dour indie drama, about the emotional leap being contemplated by a longstanding couple on the precipice of marriage. What makes The Puffy Chair a dark comedy, I suppose, is that co-writers Mark Duplass, who stars, and Jay Duplass, who directs, aren't afraid to let their characters be pointedly self-involved, fragile, spineless, or horrid.

The vehicle, so-to-speak, of the plot is a road trip that takes young couple Josh (Mark Duplass) and Emily (Kathryn Aselton) to collect the titular recliner, purchased on eBay. Naturally, nothing goes right on the high-tension road trip: a visit with Josh's brother Rhett (Rhett Wilkins) concludes with the brother inviting himself along, and the chair itself poses unexpected problems on its way to the brothers' boyhood home.

Though one can imagine, the Duplasses never directly address the signficance of the chair to the brothers or their father, to whom the chair is to be presented. The chair's varying condition, and its journey home, to some degree reflect the characters. Conveniently, the father is played by Larry Duplass (the genuine paterfamilias), and Mark Duplass and Aselton are a real-life couple, adding credibility to their characters' frayed weariness with each other.

I didn't find The Puffy Chair very amusing—its stabs at humor are low-key to a fault, and too sporadic—but it is mostly truthful about yuppie love, and that's something. Emily's badly timed archetypal question "What are the things that you love about me?" invites relationship disaster, leading to Josh's immature eruption "You want me to be this dude that I'm not."

The title correctly implies that The Puffy Chair is an indie sitcom for the Seinfeld generation, but perhaps it'll also be a useful mirror for callow couples on the brink.

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