Open a show with Paul Rudd clawing his way out of his own grave dressed only in a diaper, and you’re going to hold the viewer's attention for at least an episode. And that’s exactly what Netflix’s “Living with Yourself” does.
The show centers around Miles (Paul Rudd), a burnt-out middle-aged copywriter, seeking a drastic change to improve. So of course the answer is to undergo a vague and expensive medical procedure promising to make him a better version of himself in a strip mall. The procedure unsurprisingly goes wrong and results in two Mileses: the original and the cloned improved version. The intended result of the procedure was the original Miles to be left dead in the ground, with the clone taking his place. The concept is dark, and the casting of Rudd eclipses and masters every moment of hilarity, suspense and existential crisis that the show has to offer.
The new version of Miles mirrors the image we all have of Paul Rudd; relatable, but not so relatable that you wouldn't aspire to be like him. He excels at his job, is enthusiastic in his marriage, is kind to others and seems to be having a great time while doing it all. However, Miles quickly becomes his own worst enemy, threatening to take his life away from him.
Rudd has become typecast as this relatable, albeit best-version, of himself which he uses to his advantage in “Living with Yourself.” The show is surreal and high-concept, yet Rudd’s familiarity and likability peppers each episode with moments of lightheartedness and on-brand awkward comic relief.
Rudd was introduced to audiences with his career-making role as Josh in Amy Heckerling’s “Clueless” (1995), establishing his role in Hollywood as the charming, goofy and kind friend that has enamoured viewers ever since. Although his roles are of course all different characters, Rudd has mastered an approachable quality to make them feel as though they’re variations on himself. When he has a role that is less than likable and dare we say even unlikable, his performance is still able to convince us that we’d like to hang out with him, and it would be a pleasant experience.
This isn’t the case in “Living with Yourself.” Rudd’s portrayal of the old Miles has a depth and more intense sense of relatability than seen from him before. In this role, he has used this quality to extend his reach to the struggling, depleted and exhausted side of life that we all face. Rudd is able to not only play two roles, but play two versions of the same character. There isn’t ever a question of which Miles we are watching on screen; Rudd is able to nuance his personality as well as his physicality just so.
Though the show takes many questionable twists and turns throughout the season, this is to be expected; it’s about a strip mall cloning procedure, after all. So take some time, get comfortable and allow Paul Rudd to win you over as two different people — it shouldn’t be difficult.
While Paul Rudd is a treasure and capable of making anyone enjoy his projects, many of the paths the show goes down become tedious in the attempt to convince the viewer of the otherworldliness of the situation. You’re kind of confused as to why the story is going in a certain direction, but willing to go along just for the fun of it.
I give “Living With Yourself” four stars out of five.