Paddleton

Release: Friday, February 22, 2019 (Netflix)

→Netflix 

Written by: Mark Duplass; Alex Lehmann

Directed by: Alex Lehmann

It’s not often that the Duplass brothers make a heavy movie. Darting in and out of the so-called mumblecore scene and playing with time in pleasantly nostalgic trips down memory lane (Blue Jay) or lurching ahead into the future with spirited abandon and childlike naivety (Safety Not Guaranteed), they typically go for heartache rather than rip-your-heart-out. But the timeline we’re dealing with in Paddleton makes it absolutely the bitterest of sweet efforts from the guys who got away with making navel-gazers about a guy living at home and a puffy chair.

Yeah Paddleton is another slice-of-life drama (supposedly the first in another four-picture deal Duplass Brothers Productions have secured with the streaming behemoth Netflix), but then it’s also a story dealing with cancer and mortality so it’s really more like the whole damn cake we’re tucking into here — life, death and . . . haunting your friend in the afterlife, maybe? This is a more serious movie, there’s no doubt about that, but if there’s a way to find the humor in something as distressing as one’s own impending death, leave it to the Duplasses to find that way.

In Paddleton Mark Duplass plays a 40-something bachelor named Michael and he’s given a diagnosis that turns out to be terminal. As an actor Duplass is a pretty reliable commodity at this point and so it’s Ray Romano playing his upstairs neighbor Andy who’s the revelation. He might never have been better than he is in this utterly neurotic, quietly devastating role — his second consecutive dramatic persona following a supporting part in Kumail Nanjiani’s The Big Sick (2017). The two eke out a quiet, fringe existence wherein they escape the 9-5 doldrums by watching kung fu movies, eating pizza and engaging in this strange but totally fun-looking game they’ve invented called ‘paddleton’ — a hybrid of tennis, squash and basketball played off the back of a dilapidated building.

It doesn’t look exciting or rewarding but they slip into this routine like one pulls on their favorite torn Levis. There’s a comfort and security in simplicity, a notion that’s only reinforced — and with surprising profundity, too — once we’ve arrived at the crux of the movie, when Michael decides to end his life on his own terms rather than wait for the disease to land him in the hospital, hooked up to machines. Michael’s choice sets up a philosophical conundrum that Andy of course wrestles with, urging his friend to fight back. Michael doubles down, insisting this is a quality-over-quantity situation. He’d much prefer to spend his remaining time doing just what they’ve always done: pizza, kung fu, paddleton. Not necessarily in that order. Indeed there’s comfort in having a routine. No bucket-list stress, no grand speeches (well, there might be a good half-time speech delivered by Andy at some point). No plastic feelings, please.

Director Alex Lehmann previously worked with Duplass alongside Sarah Paulson in 2016’s Blue JayThe collaboration resulted in two outstanding performances and that’s been duplicated here. Romano and Duplass make for an endearing bromance that shoves the likes of Seth Rogen/Jonah Hill/James Franco and Will Ferrell/John C. Reilly to the way back seat. Paddleton is an amiable drama that toots along at about two miles an hour, features about five actors total, and physically goes almost nowhere — the narrative briefly kinks out into a brief road trip “comedy” of sorts when the pair have to procure some controversial medicine — and yet it manages to hit some profound depths along the way.

What starts out as an air of melancholy progresses to a rather stunning, emotional climax, a responsibly handled if challenging to watch dramatization of those last, ultra-heady stages of the grieving/dying process. Acceptance is a toughie, mostly because of the stepping stones you have to cross to get that peace of mind. A moment of paralyzing fear becomes the Duplass’ signature capital-A awkward scene. Yet for all the excruciating detail, Paddleton is ultimately life-affirming. These two dudes care for each other deeply. Despite being tinged with some ugliness the movie is beautiful because it makes this relationship the focus.

“Okay, so . . . if reincarnation is actually a thing . . .”

Recommendation: Two note-perfect performances elevate Paddleton above the potentially overly-sentimental, sugar-coated drama it might have otherwise been. Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, Paddleton is probably the most challenging Duplass Brothers movie currently on offer but along with the pain comes plenty of reward. A high recommendation for fans of Mark, Jay and whatever other Duplass may be lurking out there. Oh, and Ray Romano too. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 89 mins.

Quoted: “I’m the dying guy!”

“I’m the other guy!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Advertisements

13 thoughts on “Paddleton

  1. Pingback: Month in Review: August ’19 | Thomas J

  2. Hmm! I liked Duplass in The League but haven’t liked any of the movies of his + his brother that I have seen. I liked Creep, where he changed it up and was genuinely creepy, but I don’t think the brothers actully made that one.

    This tho sounds like a step forward for them, in my mind at least. The whole mumblecore thing sounds weird to me, it sounds like a stupid 100th sub-genre in metal hehe. I still don’t know what it means tbh. But this is one that I really like the sound of. As we usually are in agreement on most movies! I look forward to seeing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah the Duplass brand isn’t for everyone. Mumblecore refers to stylistic elements I think more than anything else. Small-scale stories, awkward people and small-time conversations, that sort of thing. Paddleton is definitely those things but it’s a more mature work because of its subject matter. I was really moved by this one

      Liked by 1 person

    • It definitely seems like it was overlooked, doesn’t it? Then again the Duplasses hardly ever play to big crowds. I’m just really glad to see they’ve got another multi-picture deal in place. I could drink up these movies like water! (granted, this one was more of a challenge. I really wasn’t expecting the ending to be quite so painful. Wow!)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah, I really enjoyed this (albeit ‘enjoyed’ seems the wrong word). Its a tricky subject but the film pulls it off with some aplomb because of the two endearing leads. There just seemed to be a ‘truth’ to it, which was refreshing, and this film seems to be EXACTLY what Netflix should be doing with its Originals- leave the genre blockbusters to the major studios and instead concentrate on the kinds of films we so rarely see at the multiplex. To paraphrase a great movie, if you make it, the audience will come. Nice review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks man. Yeah I’m with you. Enjoy is a strong word but I was glad for the experience. And very, very moved by it. The acting is so good, they really hit on some pretty profound things without going overboard on the sentimentality. I really struggled with those last 10 minutes, boy I tell ya

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.