The Puffy Chair

Billed as a dark comedy, brothers Jay and Mark Duplass' shaggy, ultra-low-budget tale of a tense New York-to-Atlanta road trip is more accurately a relationship-hell drama peppered with strangled laughs. It begins, without preamble, as attractive young couple Josh (cowriter Mark) and Emily (Kathryn Aselton) indulge over dinner in what may be the most cringe-inducing,...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Billed as a dark comedy, brothers Jay and Mark Duplass' shaggy, ultra-low-budget tale of a tense New York-to-Atlanta road trip is more accurately a relationship-hell drama peppered with strangled laughs. It begins, without preamble, as attractive young couple Josh (cowriter Mark) and Emily (Kathryn Aselton) indulge over dinner in what may be the most cringe-inducing, passive-aggressive baby talk ever committed to film (or, more correctly, high-definition digital video). John is leaving the next morning on a solo trip to pick up a purple recliner he bought on eBay for his dad's birthday; Emily is secretly furious she wasn't invited, and her simmering anger precipitates a full-fledged blowout. Josh shows up at her window the next morning with a boombox and John-Cusacks her into forgiving him and agreeing to come along. But the trip starts under a cloud and never escapes it. What should have been a short stop to visit Josh's neo-hippie brother, Rhett (Rhett Wilkins), turns into an all-day affair that culminates in Rhett inviting himself along. Josh grifts a single-occupancy rate at a roadside motel and gets them all mortifyingly busted, and when they reach Milbridge, North Carolina, to pick up the chair, it proves a battered wreck. The upholsterer who's supposed to make it look good as new overnight doesn't, and Rhett's kooky, starry-eyed fling with local girl Amber (Julie Fischer) ends badly — and in record time — for all involved. Director Jay Duplass and his brother, star and cowriter Mark, pull off a remarkable feat in building their film around characters who are insufferable individually and murder-inducing as a group. Unsuccessful musician-turned-ineffectual booking agent/manager Josh is arrogant, sullen, cheap, immature, calls everyone dude and walks through life with a rapidly curdling sense of entitlement. Emily is manipulative, insecure and needy, given to springing questions like "What are the things about me that you love?" on Josh in the middle of the night. Rhett is childish, self-righteous and, beneath his faux-sensitive blather about karma and mojo and vibes, every bit as selfish as the other two. And yet there's something painfully familiar about their graceless efforts to leave behind sheltered young adulthood and engage with the big bad world's expectations and cruel disappointments. They're callow and self-centered, but there's still no joy in seeing their hearts get stomped on the way to maturity.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Billed as a dark comedy, brothers Jay and Mark Duplass' shaggy, ultra-low-budget tale of a tense New York-to-Atlanta road trip is more accurately a relationship-hell drama peppered with strangled laughs. It begins, without preamble, as attractive young cou… (more)

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