‘Living With Yourself’: Paul Rudd doubly delightful as a man and his higher-caliber clone
The smart, funny Netflix series lives up to its intriguing premise.
We love all those Internet-popular, split-screen images of 1995 “Clueless” Paul Rudd and 2019 “Ant-Man” Paul Rudd, illustrating how Rudd seems to have aged about six months over the last 24 years.
You don’t have to digitally de-age this guy. He’s doing it on his own.
We get two Paul Rudds in the Netflix Original comedy-drama series “Living With Yourself,” but they’re the same age — because they’re the same guy.
Premieres Friday on Netflix
In this smart, funny, mostly breezy but occasionally thought-provoking series (I’ve seen all eight episodes, each just under a half-hour), Rudd makes great use of his inherent likability, his unique way of mining big laughs out of just a few words of dialogue and his underrated dramatic skill set.
Rudd plays Miles, a disheveled, stressed-out, depressed, underachieving advertising executive who is barely hanging on to his job and isn’t doing much better at home, where he and his wife, Kate, (the Irish actress-comedian-writer Aisling Bea in a terrific and funny performance) are mired in a funk, much of it caused by Miles constantly bailing on appointments at a fertility clinic.
Miles’ colleague Dan (Desmin Borges) transforms from office wallflower to aggressive, confident go-getter overnight, and he takes pity on Miles and lets him in on his secret: He experienced a miraculous rejuvenation and became a much better version of himself after undergoing treatment at a seemingly downscale spa located in a strip mall.
Oh, but it costs $50,000 for a single treatment.
Despondent and desperate, Miles depletes the bank account and heads for the spa (which leads to an absolutely hilarious cameo by one of the biggest sports stars in the world, playing himself.)
Turns out the whole “better version of yourself” thing is no hyperbole. The “spa” is in fact an experimental cloning operation. You pay your fifty grand, you go under the anesthetic — and when you wake up, you’re still the same person with the same life and the same memories, but you’re more energized, more dynamic, more upbeat, more considerate, more … everything.
Here’s the part they don’t tell you at the spa. You’re actually a clone — a separate physical entity, with identical DNA to the human original — but you don’t know it. You think you’re YOU, but you’re a duplicate.
The person who enters the spa dies in the cloning process, and the remains are buried in the woods. The 2.0 edition, blissfully unaware of this, re-joins a life already in progress and lives (much) happily ever after.
Old Miles is buried, and New Miles takes over his life — but due to a glitch in the treatment, Old Miles is in fact not dead, he’s unconscious, and he wakes up just in time to claw his way out of the shallow grave and scramble home.
Only to discover New Miles is upstairs, in bed with his wife.
Miles and his clone are equally stunned to learn of each other’s existence, and equally conflicted about how to proceed. (It’s not as if you can easily kill the other guy, because that’s you, right?)
Old Miles is jealous and resentful of New Miles, but also willing to step aside and allow his clone to fill in for him at work and at home for increasingly large chunks of time. When Old Miles re-enters the picture, he can reap the benefits of his new and improved life.
By the time Old Miles realizes he’s reduced himself to a spectator of his own life and he starts taking steps to reclaim his identity full time, New Miles has a firm grip on this particular existence and isn’t about to give it up without a fight.
Imagine the fertile comedic and dramatic material to be mined from such an intriguing, get-thee-to-a-therapist premise. Thanks to the scripts and the overall vision of showrunner Timothy Greenberg (a former executive producer on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”), and in the more than capable hands of the directing team of Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (“Little Miss Sunshine”), “Living With Yourself” consistently delivers on that premise.
And they found the perfect choice to handle this material in Paul Rudd.
Old Miles is bleary-eyed and frumpy and wears ill-fitting clothes, while New Miles has a superior haircut and better posture, but it’s the “twin” performance by Rudd that establishes the real distinctions between the two versions of the same man. In the many scenes where the two Miles interact with one another, Rudd’s performance is so strong (and the technology is so seamless), there’s genuine chemistry in the pairing — no small feat given Rudd didn’t have the benefit of an actual clone as a scene partner.
At least I’m pretty sure he didn’t.