One of the more effective "mumblecore" films, The Puffy Chair is a no-budget independent effort that relies on genuinely interesting characters in realistic and interesting situations. Co-director Mark Duplass plays the lead, a conniving douchebag who is somehow sympathetic.
The minimal production values are overcome by three really strong leading performances and a tone that hews so closely to real life that I was totally drawn in. The emotional impact of certain scenes was downright visceral.
"No budget, no problem. Instead we'll create simple stories that border on absurd and yet feel incredibly realistic because we create meaningful characters that everyone can relate to in some way." - The Duplass Brothers to Hollywood
The hippie brother is such a dipshit. Damn it, I hate hippies so much. Duplass is such a dude, wants his cake and to eat it, too (his g/f, she sucks ass, is the cake in this metaphor, by the way), and goes Rambo on two different dudes for fucking with his chair. Really great stuff. Man, the g/f sucks so much. Total nightmare witch, inviting herself onto the man-trip and then stirring up crazy shit. Witch Brew. But Duplass is such a dude he's like, "You can come and we'll fuck, but that's that."
A guy, his girlfriend and his brother drive cross-country to pick up an armchair, running into a couple of bumps along the way. Towards the end there are two or three very good discussions on the subject of marriage/relationships, but too many pointless scenes throughout (mainly involving the hippy brother) add nothing and just take up valuable time in such a short film. Having never seen Duplass acting before, I was impressed by his performance in this.
Shows a mastery of tone that's rare among first time filmmakers. The characters are all interesting and well-layered. The horribly annoying camera (evoking The Office) and lackadaisical plot really keep this from being something I could really into though.
Maybe it's because I've been watching The League lately and consequently find Mark and Katie immediately likeable, but I thought this was a compelling, beautiful, complex depiction of a real, messy relationship, and relationships in general. Far from being plotless, it uses the MacGuffins of the road trip and the titular chair to tell a series of short stories illustrating the fascinating flaws of these complex characters. Even the lame ending with all its false catharsis seems appropriate.
Duplass-Brothers feature debut is a road trip on a shoestring budget, and we're following two brothers and a girl on a funny,charming and emotional journey; a slice of life that's realistic and relatable thanks to the screenplay and good performances from the lead trio, especially Katie.A is impressive.
*Preview*: #12#, exp-3*, story, reviews, writers-directors Duplass'/1, Katie.A/6, M.Duplass/4, R4.
I can't really speak to the film's role in the Mumblecore movement because I still don't get exactly what separates it from a lot of American independent cinema dating back several decades, but overall I thought it was pretty good. It establishes this kind of intimacy with the main relationship that makes it hard to not get emotionally involved. The ending was its most superb moment, one that really rings true to life with its frankness.
It is really inspiring seeing a movie that doesn't rely on cinematography, especially for guys trying to create no budget films. This was just fantastic writing and GREAT performances. The Duplass brothers know how to write, direct, and act. An incredibly talented duo!