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A Quest for a Couch in a Cruel World

When T. S. Eliot touted the “objective correlative”—the principle that emotion in art should be expressed through objects or events—he probably didn’t envision a sofa. But in Noa Osheroff’s comedic short “Sofa So Good,” from 2020, the living-room staple, or its absence, is both a narrative engine and an entry point into the main character’s psyche.

Abeer, a young, jobless New Yorker, spends the duration of the movie zealously seeking a couch for her apartment. She used to have one, but her ex-boyfriend took it when they split. Her quest leads her back to him, briefly, and also on a Craigslist goose chase and an ill-advised Tinder date.

For Osheroff, who wrote and directed the film, Abeer’s misadventures are quintessentially New York. Upon moving to the city, Osheroff recalled, she had many “New York moments”—quirky encounters and discoveries that seemed like something out of a comedy. “You hear about people with weird professions, or you go to Craigslist and you try to find something and you get something completely different. At first, you’re shocked every time it happens. And then it’s, like, O.K., it’s New York,” she said.

It’s fitting, then, that her film is peopled by comedians. (Osheroff, the founder and host of a standup show, cast several of her peers.) The standup performer Nataly Aukar brings deadpan disaffection to the role of Abeer; Comedy Central’s Tom Thakkar is a goofy dog-hiker (not walker!) whom she goes out with; the comedian, actor, and d.j. Omri Anghel plays an overly friendly Craigslist stranger who promises a couch and produces a trampoline. Perhaps most triggering for New Yorkers who have shared apartments is the character of Karen, Abeer’s roommate. Fiercely incarnated by the writer and comedian Ashley Hamilton, she’s a true “Karen,” equal parts self-regard and self-righteousness. “Now, if you’ll excuse me,” she says, seconds before slamming her bedroom door in Abeer’s face, “I’m going to go watch porn with my headphones on, because I’m considerate like that.”

After this pageant of crazy, Abeer could use a respite. What she gets is a visit from her mother (played by Hiam Abbass, of “Ramy” and “Succession”), who offers comfort like only a mother can. Perched on a stack of throw pillows, in lieu of a couch, she pulls cans of beans from her purse for Abeer. “I’m not worried about you,” she declares, after learning of her daughter’s woes. “Really?” Abeer asks. “Really. You have no job, no fiancé, and no sofa. You have nothing to lose.”

This hard-nosed optimism may resonate with pandemic-scarred New Yorkers. At the very least, “I really hope the movie will make them laugh, especially after a year like [2020],” Osheroff said. For her, the film is “a reminder of how New York used to be, but also a reminder that New York never stays the same.” Even if we had a sofa once, maybe we can live with a trampoline.

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