-By Lewis Beale

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Failed indie rocker Josh (Mark Duplass) has an idea: His father's birthday is coming up, so he decides to buy an old Lazy Boy on eBay, just like the one his dad used to lounge in. Then he'll drive from New York to Atlanta to present it just in time for the big day. Along for the ride: Josh's girlfriend Emily (Kathryn Aselton), with whom he seems to be entering the bumpy phase of their relationship, and his brother Rhett (Rhett Wilkins), a bearded space cadet who enjoys shooting videos of lizards in the parking lot of his apartment complex.

Since it really only takes about two days to drive from New York to Atlanta, the writing/directing team of Mark and Jay Duplass have decided to fill their first feature film with as much incident as possible. So, the first night out Josh (who gives new meaning to the term "obnoxious yuppie") tries to get a cheaper rate from a motel owner by claiming he's flying solo. Then when the trio arrive at the spot where they're to pick up the puffy chair, they discover it's a broken-down mess that badly needs reupholstering. This means an overnight stay in a small North Carolina town, where Rhett meets a girl at a movie theatre and decides to marry her-in an impromptu ceremony performed by Josh.

That relationship lasts all of 12 hours, however, which tends to convince Emily (pretty but whiny) that the brothers are the kings of commitment-phobia. Then Rhett, upset that Josh has used physical intimidation to get the upholsterer to finish his work on time, decides the puffy chair is emitting "bad karma" and sets it on fire. The brothers then get into a fight, during which Josh breaks his arm. So by the time the group arrives in Atlanta, they are sans chair, and Josh and Emily are also about to make a decision about their affair.

Although these shenanigans sound overwrought and stupid on paper, The Puffy Chair actually has a light tone and a few fine comedic moments. The acting is certainly professional, but the film is problematic on two key levels: None of the three lead characters is particularly likeable, and director/cinematographer Jay Duplass has a really hard time keeping his hand-held camera in focus whenever he zooms in for a shot, which lends a real amateurish look to the proceedings.

The Puffy Chair was well-received at Sundance, and won the audience award at the SXSW Film Festival. This may say as much about those fests' youthful audiences as it does the quality of the film. In any case, the Duplass brothers certainly show talent as writers; maybe they should get someone else to direct their next production.

-Lewis Beale

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