Paul Rudd does double duty in “Living With Yourself,” a bizarrely twisty, highly inventive dark comedy that, among other things, considers the elusive quest for happiness. The premise, frankly, really doesn’t do this Netflix series justice, as the producers somehow keep pulling rabbits – and unexpected wrinkles – out of hats.
Rudd plays Miles, an ordinary sort who is seemingly living a life of suburban bliss, sleepwalking through a reasonably successful middle-management job and marriage to Kate ((Aisling Bea), even if there’s not an abundance of spark left.
So when he receives a referral for treatment at a mysterious mini-mall “spa” offering a procedure that will rebuild him into “a better you,” he’s shocked to wake up in a shallow grave, having apparently been left for dead, while his clone (Rudd, again) has unwittingly assumed all of his responsibilities.
The two meet, much to their shared dismay, and go about the business of discovering what exactly happened. After that, though, they proceed to basically share Miles’ life, with all the discomfort, near misses and resentments that entails.
“There’s two mes, but there’s one life,” he puzzles.
If that sounds like a high-wire act – how long, really, can the writers keep that up? – series creator Timothy Greenberg and directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”) keep not just falling off but leaping forward, taking Miles and his shadow into unanticipated directions. Moreover, the point of view keeps shifting, basically following events from one angle before backtracking to explore how it looked to another character.
Rudd plays it all with a mix of comedy and pathos, somehow differentiating his double role, even if they’re both versions – down to their memories – of the same dude.
As constructed, it’s a delightful little binge, and a relatively modest commitment, as these things go, at eight episodes.
For anyone who has felt occasionally overwhelmed by daily life, there’s something oddly fascinating about the show’s mechanics, but without getting too philosophical about it, “Living With Yourself” also operates on a deeper level – contemplating, for lack of a better term, what makes you, well, you.
It’s not clear how much mileage can be wrung out of that formula, or how the show fits into Rudd’s busy schedule. But based on the tight, intricate way the first season cleverly unspools, Netflix, and viewers, should have ample incentive to live with the series at least a little longer.
“Living With Yourself” premieres Oct. 18 on Netflix.