Did the latest Netflix series starring Paul Rudd and Paul Rudd deliver? Baz Greenland reviews…
This October, Netflix dropped its latest comedy series Living With Yourself, starring the never-aging Paul Rudd…and Paul Rudd…with seemingly little fanfare. The Ant Man star plays two versions of himself – poor disgruntled Miles Eliot, who is finding his lust for life slipping away before his very eyes and a cooler, savvy version of himself that can do everything he does – but better. The concept behind Living With Yourself is fun; a trip to a spa in a strip mall sees his life replaced by a much better version of yourself – what do you do when you find your life usurped by a version of yourself who is effortless superior than you are?
A warning of spoilers as I delve into the series below…
Judging by the trailer, you might expect this to a hilarious comedy; the original Miles struggling to claw his life back from a man that is more successful – both at work and in his marriage to wife Kate (Aisling Bea). But from the very start, Living With Yourself subverts expectations. Starting with the original Miles crawling out of the ground, we discover that his spa ‘treatment’ was in fact a black market human cloning procedure, resulting in his new ‘clone’ created with better DNA (just go with the science). The original Miles, it seems, was never supposed to survive the procedure. Rather than upgrade the original ‘you’, the base model is killed off and buried in the wood, while the new clone picks up where the original left off – with no comprehension that they aren’t who they thought they were. The fact that the original Miles survives – thanks to a darkly comic scene where the gas canister to put him to sleep doesn’t quite work – shows just how morose Living With Yourself is at times. This is far from a fun, quirky comedy you thought it might be.
In fact, the humour is largely stilted and awkward – resulting in an almost uncomfortable snigger than a belly laugh at times. That’s not to say the series isn’t enjoyable, but it isn’t the laugh a minute comedy you thought it might be. The heart of Living With Yourself is in the exploration of the two Miles as they adjust to their new situation and the rather complicated relationship with Kate. While it might have been fun to have had a couple of extra episodes where they live fake lives – the new Miles covering for the old – the starting premise of the series is largely wrapped up by the third episode, with Kate’s discovery of Miles’ twin in an awkward confrontation in TGI Fridays.
We whizz through new Miles being brilliant at his job and salvaging old Miles’ floundering career, surprising Kate with an evening meal and delighting guests at a dinner party but these scenes are never given much room to develop. The revelation to the back-room cloning, bodies buried in the woods instead leave the first half of the series a curious exploration of identity; series creator and writer Timothy Greenberg creating a story that could easily be meandering and lost as the Miles – and later Kate – struggle to adjust to their new situation.
Fortunately Paul Rudd is a delight as scruffy, tired old Miles and slick new Miles with cool hair, coloured shirts and plenty of charm. he adds enough nuance to each performance that both Miles feel distinct as characters and yet believably clones of each other. More so, neither Miles is presented in broad strokes – sad and happy – with the new hip Miles struggling with memories and a love of Kate that he can never act upon, while old Miles battles jealously and anger as his life continues to crumble away. Rudd has great chemistry with Bea in both versions and she plays the right balance between sharp and sassy with heart and conviction. Bea delivers a strong heartfelt performance as she struggles to deal with two different versions of the man she loves.
What really keeps the story on its toes is the non-linear narrative. Across the eight half-hour episodes, Greenberg’s script regularly jums back and forth in time to switch from the perspective of one Miles to another – and later an episode almost entirely through Kate’s eyes – which keeps the format fresh and offers new insight at each stage. There’s an unpredictability to the story from that first shot of Miles crawling out of the ground to Kate’s revelation in the season’s final moments, meaning the viewer is always kept on their toes.
There were times when I wanted the show to be funnier or to have the courage to really follow through on its ideas. There were times where I thought Living With Yourself would go down an edgier path, particularly with Miles’ arrest in a sequence that was neither funnier nor or as dark as it should have been. On the flip side, the show was always entertaining (largely due to Rudd and Bea’s performances) and the story was never predictable. It also boasts a terrific final episode (the dance sequence between Miles and Kate is worth watching the series for alone) with the final showdown as unpredictable as it was fun.
Living With Yourself offers an interesting exploration of human identify, in an offbeat, occasionally darkly comic and often heartfelt manner. It’s not what you might expect going in, but that’s part of its charm. While there is still plenty of potential to explore this story further in future seasons (no news on a renewal yet), it also gives the audience a satisfying, if open-ended closure on the story of Miles, Miles and their wife Kate. The series isn’t going to top the list of Netflix originals, but it is a charming little drama that is well worth your time.