Living With Yourself: Season 1 (2019)
creator: timothy Greenberg | runtime: 30mins – Episode | comedy, drama
Down in the dumps and fed up with life, Miles (Paul Rudd) is referred to a spa which promises to alter and scrub his DNA and make him feel rejuvenated in the process. After the procedure Miles comes home to find someone who looks just like him there in his place.
It seems strange if you don’t know the premise of Netflix’s newest show, it’s biggest selling point is an offering of not one but two Paul Rudd’s. But the strangest part of it is how the show tries to reveal this to it’s audience. Despite being on the poster, in the trailer and every other piece of marketing for the show, Timothy Greenberg begins the first episode with an element of intrigue. He slowly builds the reveal and in turn earns a shocking twist within his first episode that easily grasps you – as the two Rudd’s battle in the dark until they finally see each other’s face. The only problem with this really is due to the shows marketing, if you are one of the lucky ones that somehow went into the show without knowing anything about it, you’ll be delightfully be rewarded with a twist that is fully earnt by intrigue and build. But for the not so lucky (myself included), the twist slightly loses it’s impact. Maybe Netflix are too blame, as an effective twist is one of the most intoxicating techniques that has been working for film and television for decades.
Having said that, there is still merit in the shows ability to completely embrace the ‘clone story’, one that has often been played out over the years. It does so with some great writing in each episode, and a long hard look into each of the three main characters (two of which are played by Paul Rudd). Essentially the show really revolves around deadbeat Miles and his mid-life crisis, which is the catalyst for his trip to the spa which he’s referred to by his charismatic coworker Dan. The spa is located on the side of an interstate in a small desolate strip mall, blending in with it’s surroundings and certainly matching the bleakness of the shows opening unhappiness, but once inside it turns into a deep retro purple (something that feels closer to Fukunaga’s Maniac ) and begins to highlight some of the shows bizarre off-beat tendencies. After all this is has successfully drawn you in what follows is 7 more episodes that are as fun as it’s first.
It seems obvious to say that Paul Rudd really does shine here, as playing two roles rarely fails in terms of performance, but what he gets most of his credit for is his ability to divide the two performances equally and differently – making his performance far more nuanced than you’d expect. In the first meeting they play like polar opposites of each other, not really grasping the depth of each and merely being a mimic of one another. But as the show goes on, and the person-by-person structure is in full play, you really appreciate just how much nuance there is. Old Miles is played as a grumpy, self-loathing man that struggles to find happiness in the mundane life he believes he leads, but on the other end of spectrum is the ‘clone Miles’, where we get to see just why America (and the rest of the world) love Paul Rudd so much. He has the untouchable charisma and natural ability to make you laugh without making any particular joke, this Miles is much more a representation of Ant-Man (2015) Rudd, where as the old Miles leans more towards his This is 40 (2012) performance. But the beauty in both is, whether he’s wearing foggy glasses and being miserable, or leaving party guests in stitches as the clone, Rudd will always have the uncanny ability to be so likable, a skill that only real movie stars have.
Despite Rudd being the unsurprising draw, one of the most exciting reasons to watch Living With Yourself is because of Aisling Bea. Somehow, playing just one role as Miles’ also fed-up wife Kate, manages to match Rudd in nuance and in likability. Maybe it’s the Irish charm that wins you over, as a lot of the shows jokes feel to much like American sitcom at times, but her delivery and range is on full show throughout and thanks to some great structuring to the show she becomes a much more integral part of the story and a deeper character in the process. At first she is seen as Miles’ wife, nagging, fighting and feeling more like an attachment to Miles’ story rather than her own character, but one episode gives her a story of her own.
The episode is called ‘Va Bene’ in which we see Kate’s life just over a thousand days B.C. (before cloning) – in which her and Miles bounce off each other with a recklessly positive outlook on life, cracking jokes in the face of their turmoil. It builds not only Kate as a character, but the marriage as a whole. It makes it clear as to why these two people were married in the first place – making the last twenty minutes of the episode all the more heartbreaking. Watching Kate suffer at the blandness her life seems to have become, and the fact that her once joyous companion is becoming an emotionless shell of a man. This episode is by far the standout, not only does it make Karen a full and complete character, it separates her from the attachment of Miles’ wife, giving her individuality within her own turmoil and how she uses her strong personality to deflect sadness. But the beauty of it is that after Kate has become a complete character, the show makes it very clear that what is going to follow is purely a dissection of Miles and Kate as a relationship, rather than just Miles and his mid-life crisis.
The show really does struggle at times with the unnecessary cliche of American sitcom jokes, not really having much faith in it’s two leading stars but rather subjects them to the cheapest of laughs (which they still sell). But the show is smarter than it jokes suggests, having strong structural integrity that proves it’s relevance with fleshed characters and revitalising a somewhat dead concept. The nuances on show are genuine, and make no mistake that Netflix has faith in this comedy/drama, with the small interactions with FDA and an ending that’s both strange and intriguing, it seems that we may get to see even more Rudd than we’ve ever seen before, an exciting prospect that we can look forward to in the near future.