The strangeness of this series emerges immediately, in the first shot. The apathetic Miles (Rudd) climbs out a layer of soil in the middle of a forest, splitting the bag of plastic he was buried in. He surfaces, wearing nothing but a nappy. Writer/creator Timothy Greenberg then hops back 24 hours as Miles, in his office, kills a fly. ‘You’re welcome,’ he says.
These time-hops become something of a staple in the series, bearing some resemblance to the odd Natasha Lyonne series Russian Doll. Time and perspective don’t unfold in straight lines; they’re more like traceable squiggles.
After a dodgy spa treatment, Miles (Paul Rudd) inadvertently creates a doppelgänger
As an attempt to improve his life, Miles goes to an expensive spa treatment at a strip mall; one that will make him a better functioning human. This results in the conception of a Miles clone: essentially, his more improved self. Initially, this is ideal: Miles can be the husband, worker, and social personality without needing to do anything at all. He can stay in, get drunk, watch porn, and escape himself.
But this finds unexpected tensions when it comes to his wife Kate, played by the increasingly brilliant Aisling Bea. Bea (eventually) delivers a heartrending performance, more than matching her role in This Way Up. There’s not nearly enough of her and, considering her other job as a comedian, her jokes aren’t as numerous as Rudd's.
But in episode five, the perspective dramatically shifts to her – examining her view of the relationship up to the present day, in what’s probably the most stirring chapter in the series.
There's not nearly enough of Aisling Bea in Living With Yourself
Greenberg and directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Battle of the Sexes, Little Miss Sunshine) wrap the surreal aspects of the series around a heavy, beating, sodden heart. The fragmentary story dives into the morbid mundanity of everyday existence: waking up the same way, working at the same job, enduring the same people, day after day after day.
It sounds easy to convey, as plenty have done before, but Greenberg drives through a weird and vivid journey of self-improvement. He never tries to entirely cure that listless feeling, but finds ways to make it better. The clone is Miles's potential, and to come into contact with one's embodied potential touches many nerves.
Paul Rudd, still possessing the goofy sparkle from his earlier roles in Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, drops into an unusually poignant double-performance here. He concurrently portrays optimism and pessimism with disorienting fluidity.
Although the premise is ridiculous, Living With Yourself pokes into some very real fears and anxieties about life and living. Some of the narrative squiggles don’t engage as much as others – Miles’s series-long work pitch at his branding firm is comparatively uninteresting – but Greenberg is quick to punch to somewhere more exciting and silly. There are plenty of laughs scattered around, but the series revels in its existential dread. Each episode leaves behind a relatable ennui, one that strikes uncomfortably close to home.
Living With Yourself is available from Friday 18 October on Netflix
|What||Living With Yourself, Netflix review|
18 Oct 19 – 18 Oct 20, 12:00 AM