This review does not contain spoilers.
Living with Yourself is a comedy-drama from Timothy Greenberg, which was released on Netflix this Friday (18th October 2019). It stars Paul Rudd as its protagonists and co-starring alongside him is Irish actress Aisling Bea.
The series follows Miles Elliot (Paul Rudd), who has lost his passion for his work at a marketing firm in New York, and has found his relationship with his wife, Kate Elliot, following in the same direction. As a result, Miles takes a trip to a spa in order to receive a life-altering, experimental treatment. Miles wakes up from the “treatment” to meet Miles Elliot 2.0, who is better than original Miles in almost every way. Now, he must try to win back his wife, his job, and his identity.
Paul Rudd plays both versions of Miles and offers a decent performance. However, the original Miles Elliot is a rundown, lazy character, with little self-esteem and charisma. He mopes around the house looking dishevelled and untidy. In reality, Paul Rudd is an extremely successful movie star who has had a featured role in the biggest film of the year in The Avengers franchise. I found I couldn’t get completely into the story as the character was very obviously Paul Rudd playing a man in a mid-life crisis. The only difference physically between Miles 1 and Miles 2 is that Miles 1’s hair goes down and he wears glasses, whereas Miles 2’s hair goes up and he doesn’t need glasses. That being said, Rudd does play the two characters well enough to explore the intertextuality of the series.
The deuteragonist is Miles’ wife Kate, who is played by Aisling Bea, the Irish actress, comedian, and writer. Having previously seen Bea’s acting in This Way Up, it didn’t feel as though Living with Yourself was a million miles away in terms of genre – dramedy. The character of Kate is not overly complex, likely because she only receives one episode that focuses on her. The main function of her character is to react to the Miles(s) rather than offer any real introspect in the main themes of the series.
The main theme of Living with Yourself is identity, and in particular, Miles’ identity. I think one of the reasons the show missed the mark a little was due to the fact that Miles’ identity wasn’t very interesting. He comes across as a middle class, white man, who despite his large house, good job, and loving wife, finds problems for himself. He is not a character I felt I could empathise with, nor understand his choices. Whilst I understand that this is a major point in the show, this made for a few unentertaining scenes. Furthermore, the ageing of trope of ‘you don’t know how good you’ve got it until it’s gone’ has been the plot in film and tv time and time again; and Living with Yourself doesn’t necessarily explore the idea in a fresh or original way. This is frustrating because the setup of the series indicated that it was going to be an imaginative retelling, but instead of the series moving towards more adventure and excitement, it seemed to retreat into a very beige setting.
The series is haunted by its unanswered plot points. There are some developments that seem to lead no where and Elliot’s sister [Alia Shawkat] is sort of present but not really. Some developments in the narrative are unexpected, which made for more exciting viewing and helped the plot to seem a little more interesting. There is a good balance between drama and comedy, but I felt that the genre was perhaps not the best fit for the theme. At its foundation, the plot revolves around technological anxiety, a common theme found in science fiction, but it’s not necessarily the best fit for a dramedy.
You might like this series if you’re not a big sci-fi fan but enjoy some minor elements. I think Living with Yourself might appeal to an audience who like romantic comedies that don’t require you to think too much. Overall, Living with Yourself is a series that demonstrates balance between drama and comedy, but it’s hardly an edge-of-your-seat performance. The show borrows elements from science fiction but doesn’t necessarily follow it through.
If you liked this article, please consider supporting me on Patreon! Patreon helps us to keep Screen Waffle ad-free and enables us to keep making new and exciting content.