Unfortunate title notwithstanding, this shrewd, genially acerbic road movie--cum--romantic black comedy should register with anyone who’s ever traveled out of his or her way to avoid confronting a relationship on life support. Sounds grim, but the Duplass brothers make it a trip worth taking. Failed NYC rocker and charmingly dissembling bully Josh (Mark Duplass, who wrote the screenplay) reluctantly brings his longtime girlfriend, Emily (Aselton), on a southward jaunt to pick up the recliner of the title—as shaggy a symbol as any ever put on screen. The rift between them widens once Josh’s New Agey layabout brother, Rhett (Wilkins), hitches a ride, and busts wide open when Rhett takes a brief but galvanizing matrimonial side trip. Resentments and upholstery fly.
ThePuffy Chair’s balance between playful compassion and cold evaluation is impressive for a first feature, and as such evokes a more sentimental, less cynical Andrew Bujalski (Mutual Appreciation)—that’s a compliment. It’s not perfect, especially in the Duplasses’ hazy conception of Emily, which seems lifted from the kind of guycentric relationship movie in which women are catalysts only insofar as their men are driven to appease or escape them. But it’s redeemed by a wistful conclusion offering an uncomfortable, frankly grown-up truth: Sometimes, just making a choice is more important than the choice you make. Ouch. (Opens Fri; Angelika.) — Mark Holcomb