I really, really love our recliner, so I can totally understand this movie!
Written By: Jay & Mark Duplass
Directed By: Jay & Mark Duplass
My first experience with a film that fits in the mumblecore (I’m not too keen on this label, but it works for greater cinephilia understanding of the reference) label was 2009’s Humpday. I found Humpday well made, but ultimately lacking in emotional truth and getting to the point. It skirted around the issue so much that by the time it got to the issue it had said everything it wanted to say on the issue. I had been informed by many people that Jay and Mark Duplass were the go to tandem for great mumblecore. I took what people said to heart, and then proceeded to ignore any films that would possibly carry the mumblecore label for some time. It wasn’t until today, when I was looking for a film to watch that had a short run time that I finally dove back into the world of mumblecore, with The Puffy Chair.
The Humpday comparison is apt, because The Puffy Chair is a lot like Humpday, but better in every possible way. It skirts around the issues it wants to tackle, but only for a short time. By the midway point of the film it’s pretty obvious that The Puffy Chair is building to something. The Duplass Brothers are tackling the issue of social disconnection and the importance of communication in our relationships while building to an actual big moment. When the film reaches its big moment it fires on all cylinders. As an allegory the razing of a chair works, and the big event isn’t just a big event, it leads to actual open discussion and growth in the characters. In the end that’s really what The Puffy Chair is about, characters growing and talking to one another.
My favorite moment in The Puffy Chair is when Josh sits down and has a talk with his dad. It’s right at the end of the film, and it shows tremendous growth from Josh. This is a character who has been in control the entire time, yet afraid of what his control meant. In that conversation with his father he takes a deep breath and realizes he doesn’t need to be in control of anything but himself. The film comes to this point organically, and it feels emotionally honest as a result. Emotional honesty is important in a film that deals with relationships and communication, and The Puffy Chair nails that part of the film.
The Puffy Chair is a small film, but it’s not a limited film. It deals with a small number of characters and their small set of problems. It uses their problems to springboard into the broader ideas of communication and relationships in general. The Duplass Brothers’ film starts off small, but it grows and grows until by the time it finishes it feels like it has interesting and compelling things to say about the world at large. The term mumblecore may be reductive, but when it comes to films that fit within that label I can only hope that there are more that are as well made, emotionally honest, and as compellingly natural as The Puffy Chair.