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Who doesn’t love Paul Rudd? The man screams “internal happiness”. If you look through the actor’s career, he made everything he’s in better. In Clueless he’s meant to be an obstacle in Alicia Silverstone’s path to reaching the top of the high school food chain, yet both Silverstone’s Cher and the audience fall in love with Rudd. Despite Wet Hot American Summer, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Anchorman having stellar casts, Rudd steals the show in his supporting roles. Let’s not forget that Paul Rudd is the only outsider to successfully infiltrate the Friends gang.
With his immediate future secure with the MCU, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the most likable man in the world would take his foot off the pedal. Yet, this has never been Rudd’s style. Rudd’s new Netflix series Living with Yourself asks the question we’ve been asking ourselves. What’s better than one Paul Rudd? The answer is, of course, two Paul Rudd’s.
Living with Yourself tells the story of Miles Eliot (Paul Rudd), a down on his luck man who is having a mid-life crisis to end all mid-life crises. Miles is stuck in a rut in his job in a marketing company while his marriage to Kate (Aisling Bea) simultaneously falls apart. Seeking a change in his mundane life Miles decides to attend a spa that promises a better life to come at the end of your first session. Unfortunately for Miles the treatment sees him replaced by a clone that is better than him in every way. New Miles has a winning quiff, an everlasting smile and the Paul Rudd charm we all love. The two Miles embark on a battle for their wife, career and identity. Over the course of the eight-episode season you’ll laugh, cry and become hooked to see which Miles will come out on top.
As with any project that requires an actor to play two roles, choosing the right actor is make or break to the series being a success. Sometimes it’s a remarkable success, as seen in the criminally underseen Jake Gyllenhaal film Enemy. Other times it’s painfully jarring. If you were one of the few people who checked out Will Smith’s Gemini Man, you’ll know that.
Paul Rudd delivers the best performance of his career to date in Living with Yourself. As the original Miles, Rudd delves into an unlikability that goes against any other role the comic has played. Not only that but Rudd gets to show off his dramatic chops as a man who has given up on his life. From his dreary facial expressions to his monotone voice, Rudd is perfect at capturing the effect that depression has on a person. From the opening scene of the first episode that sees Rudd emerging from the ground suffocating in a plastic bag it’s clear that this is a Rudd performance unlike any other and this is before the cloning.
As the cloned Miles, Rudd dials up his personality to astronomic heights. The new and improved Miles, let’s call him Miles 2 to avoid confusion, is happy about everything. Before spending even five minutes with Miles 2 we see him sticking his head out a window like a puppy and frolicking through a cornfield. Everything about Miles 2 is perfect, it’s impossible not to love him.
Yet, what could have been a one-note character is made more interesting once the show explores Miles 2’s identity crisis. What happens to your place in the world when you realise you are a carbon copy of someone else? As the show progresses it becomes clear that being perfect is not a life you want to have. When you are perfect and nothing else is around you it seems fair to spiral into a pit of despair. The show is at its best when the two Miles are together. Rudd has a blast bouncing off himself as the two Miles argue. As the rivalry reaches its peak in the final episodes it becomes impossible to decide which Miles to root for. Had it have not been for Rudd’s Emmy worthy performances, Living with Yourself would have been all gimmick and no bite.
Ireland’s own Aisling Bea delivers a performance that will launch her into superstardom. The Kildare comic follows up her already stellar performance in This Way Up with one that is heartbreaking. Bea plays Miles’s wife Kate, a woman who is clinging on to her marriage with the hope that having a child will make things better. Unfortunately, the couple has been having fertility problems that have delayed them beginning their family.
The show delves into the issue with tenderness, as it’s an issue that affects millions of couples worldwide. It’s refreshing to see a show approach it in an honest manner. In the show’s best episode “Va Bene” the attention turns to Kate as we see the deteriorating relationship from her perspective. Bea captures the heart-breaking moment that your life isn’t what you dreamed it would be perfectly.
Kate isn’t just used as a moral compass. She’s just as funny as either of the two Miles. Bea uses her razor-sharp humour to cut down her husband(s) in some of the most creative insults seen on TV in a long time. Rudd and Bea’s chemistry is really what makes the show. From the flashbacks that show why they’re married in the first place to their resentment of each other, this is a brutally realistic depiction of a relationship. A wonderfully choreographed dance sequence between the two is one of the finest moments of television to emerge from 2019.
Creator and writer of every episode Timothy Greenberg (The Daily Show) is a genius for managing to make this absurd premise work. As with many of the best comedies of recent years, looking at you Fleabag, Greenberg injects a sadness that every viewer will relate to in some way.
This new approach to comedy is the future. The world is not a happy place in 2019. We’ve all suffered knockdown after knockdown to pick ourselves back up again. We are not always laughing. Yet, when we get our spark back the laughs we have are glorious. Greenberg manages to make a show about cloning effortlessly real. Composer Anna Meredith does a great job of using her music to drag through a blender of emotions – reusing some songs from Eighth Grade to make the viewer as anxious as that film’s swimming pool scene. For a show that’s penned as a comedy this will make you reach peak levels of stress.
Living with Yourself is a big win for Netflix. With the impending arrival of Disney + it’s vital that the company raises the consistency of their originals to an all-time high. If the standard hoovers around the heights set by Living with Yourself audiences are in for a treat. This sci-fi /comedy/drama will hook you from the first episode. It’s hard to remember a series that had the same effect. We must now all cross our fingers and hope that a second series gets greenlit. It’s not like Netflix has a habit of canceling fan favourites. Sorry fans of The OA and Tuca & Bertie.