Pretty regularly, Netflix will attach a big name celebrity to something exclusive and weird, like Jonah Hill and Emma Stone’s limited series, “Maniac” and Meryl Streep’s dramady “The Landromat.” While Netflix remains to be a place underappreciated actors like Natasha Lyonne of “Russian Doll” fame can break out into prominence, it’s also been able to attract high caliber A-listers like Chris Pine, Chris Evans and Ben Affleck, all of whom have starred in Netflix projects.
Paul Rudd joins their ranks in his 8 episode series, “Living With Yourself”, in which Rudd plays a beleaguered writer named Miles Elliot who has lost his passion for life, and seeks a mysterious treatment from a strip mall massage parlor that supposedly has the power to give him a better life. In actuality, he walks into an illegal cloning facility that kills its customers and replaces them with optimistic and refreshed clones of themselves that have their exact same memories.
However, during Miles’ session, the machine malfunctions, leaving him to grapple with a clone that longs to replace him.
“Living With Yourself” is a high concept series with some good, some bad, and some ugly. So I’ll organize the review addressing each element.
“Living With Yourself” explores several interesting concepts that promote thought that haven’t been attempted much in film. One of the central conflicts of the series, and Miles’ motivation to seek the treatment, is his failing and bitter relationship with his wife, Kate (Aisling Bea).
They had structured their entire lives around moving to the suburbs and making a family, but were having difficulty getting pregnant. Then a few years passed with no progress, with both characters feeling stuck and unhappy in their current situation.
When the clone enters their lives, the unknowing Kate is attracted to his newfound optimism and excitement, thinking she got her husband back. ** Spoilers ** She even goes so far as to leave her husband for the clone when she’s clued in to what happened. But she finds that the clone is no replacement for her husband, and she eventually finds his positivity annoying.
It’s interesting because in relationships, it’s common to crave and desire things to be the same they were at the beginning of the relationship, when things were exciting and new. But if one were to actually achieve this by grabbing an exact clone of your significant other from that time period, history would only repeat itself.
There are so many characters and plot points that are introduced only to go nowhere, such as Miles’ half sister, Maia (Alia Shawkat), who appears in two scenes and only serves to stuff exposition into the plot; and the FDA agents who capture the original Miles on suspicion of illegal human cloning, who are revealed to be jokes who don’t have adequate resources to pose a threat (their investigation ends embarrassingly as they are reassigned to cover children’s vitamins). I understand that you can only do so much with eight episodes, but these characters could have been cut out with little to no consequences.
There are so many moments that could have had great consequences and tension weaved into the narrative, but each time, the series drops the ball.
This is especially true in the finale, which doesn’t feel like a finale because each moment of tension is immediately cut short (i.e., there’s a point where both Miles are fighting over a gun with one bullet, which ends up careening into a wall, useless; the clone Miles gets suffocated only to come back to life a minute later).
Perhaps these issues can be resolved by fleshing out and tightening the story in a season two, but I’m not sure this series has earned one.
The ugly truth about “Living With Yourself” is that it has great moments of storytelling and even film making (there is a scene where Paul Rudd fights himself that puts the Current Captain America vs. Past Captain America scene in “Avengers: Endgame” to shame), but it sets up too many plot points and character that go nowhere, and by doing so, it misses its opportunity to say something profound about its subject matter.
For very brief moments, Miles is at peace with his clone, and for a scene at the end, he accepts that he must live with both the bad parts of himself (represented by himself) and the good (the clone), and one cannot exist without the other.
It also had the opportunity to explore tough moral questions about cloning, but it only scratched the surface.
“Living With Yourself” is just OK, but could’ve been terrible had an actor not as good as Paul Rudd took the helm (ala Noomi Rapace’s wooden acting playing identical septuplets in “What Happened to Monday”). But with a tighter script and focus with less fat around the edges, it could’ve been something great.
“Living With Yourself” gets a 6/10