Netflix's 'Living With Yourself' Has Twice the Paul Rudd, but Not Like You'd Expect
Every couple months, Twitter becomes aghast by how old Paul Rudd is -- he's 50, for the record -- and then proceeds to fawn over the everyman actor again. To be fair, it is pretty astounding that he's sustained his boyish looks and endearing grin for what is now a multi-decades-long career. He's become the that guy who we as a culture decided is eternally 30, and we think of him like the best friend from college we all have who we're down to kick back with whenever, wherever, whether he's putting on the Ant-Man suit or leading a Judd Apatow joint.
Living With Yourself, Netflix's latest dramedy, poses the very important question: Are two Paul Rudds better than one? And, surprise, surprise, the bountiful number of Rudds is of course a plus. While the double Rudds are the most entertaining aspect of the mostly fine show, the proceedings are not as irreverent and comical as you might expect, given that it's the comic actor's first leading TV performance. This gets pretty dark.
Really, Living With Yourself grapples with big questions: What is the best version of ourselves, and how do reach that potential? It's an existential pondering that writer Timothy Greenberg (The Daily Show) and directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (Little Miss Sunshine, Battle of the Sexes) explore through Rudd's Miles who's experiencing the typical suburban malaise, feeling unfulfilled at work and experiencing strained relations with his wife Kate (the charming Aisling Bea) as they're having trouble getting pregnant. But when his co-worker (Desmin Borges) refers him to the mysterious Top Happy Spa that promises to make you "the best you can be," he's forced to face a clone of himself who is just like him, while excelling everywhere he falls short, when the treatment doesn't go as planned.
Living With Yourself presents an enticing sci-fi premise to explore something metaphorical, similar to last year's Maniac, but the series isn't interested in indulging in world-building in the same way (and the world it does somewhat build is slightly offensive in its treatment of Asian spas). The first episode certainly is fantastical -- the first shot is of Rudd crawling out of the ground wearing a diaper -- but this show would rather focus on the implications of perspective than its fantasy, as most episodes are retellings of the same day from the perspective of different characters.
Since Living With Yourself isn't obsessed with explaining its sci-fi elements, and there's only so much material out of Rudd bickering with himself that one can take as Miles sits back and lets clone Miles run his life for awhile -- the show really gets going when Miles impulsively reveals to Kate that he's cloned himself. This leads to ever more complex problems for the characters and also allows Rudd to show off his acting chops. No, it's not the slapstick performance that you might first expect, imagining goofy Rudd opposite Rudd. Instead, he wields two distinctive roles as a depressed man whose identity is unfurling as Miles, and a slier performance as the clone who is too superficial to come across as tangible, but even portrays his own identity crisis sincerely.
Living With Yourself might not have worked were it not for the star power of Paul Rudd. It quite literally is The Paul Rudd Show -- just know you shouldn't go into it looking for constant laughs. There's opportunity for that (and the actor's hilarious when he's delivering one-liners and physical humor), but this dark comedy leans more onto the dark side of things to examine our identities than the hilarity of it all -- like when we're left to give ourselves and our futures' a hard look in the mirror to see if we could be better, or if we're enough as is.
The show is worth a binge, as it's only eight 25-35 minute episodes that you can easily breeze through for the sake of wanting to know what happens next. And it's especially worth the watch if you're a fan of the actor because you'll be given double the serving of that sweet Rudd screen time in a role that's a bit of a departure for him. Living With Yourself might not be entirely unique in its suburban ennui commentary, or even that eventful, but for a show bent on having two Paul Rudds, it delivers in a satisfying way. He'll definitely be trending on Twitter again this weekend with the show's release because people can't get enough of America's 30-, er, 50-year-old golden boy... and for good reason.