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Two Paul Rudds are Better Than One

Under the direction of the filmmakers behind ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’ Netflix’s ‘Living with Yourself’ is in good hands.
Paul Rudd Admission
By  · Published on August 13th, 2018

Under the direction of the filmmakers behind ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’ Netflix’s ‘Living with Yourself’ is in good hands.

Paul Rudd is certainly not a one-trick pony. Over the course of his career, he’s been a versatile funny man who, on one hand, isn’t afraid to tap into a sillier and more foolish side. On the other, tempered and good-natured characters often spawn by virtue of Rudd’s often underutilized knack for drama.

Simply based on his most famous portrayal to date — that is, Ant-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — Rudd truly sells the oddest and dorkiest qualities with the utmost authenticity. He can take weird basic premises and elevate them with more emotionally satisfying performances, whether we’re laughing with (or at) him or not. It’s a balance that will likely be put to the test in more ways than one in his latest project.

As reported by Deadline, Rudd will headline the Netflix series Living with Yourself. The streaming service has ordered the eight-episode scripted comedy from Timothy Greenberg, an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning writer and executive producer whose past credits include The Daily Show. Greenberg will serve as showrunner while Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris of Little Miss Sunshine fame are slated to direct and also executive produce the series.

Living with Yourself — literally telling as the title is — will bless us with not one, but two versions of Rudd. The basis of the show seems reliant on cloning: Rudd’s protagonist undergoes a “novel treatment” on a quest to better himself. Unfortunately, the results are direr than he expects when he is forced to meet his match in every sense of the word. Rudd runs into a “new and improved” model of himself and realizes that he has some issues that desperately need addressing.

The series marks a couple of firsts for Rudd, who has yet to play a dual role in a live-action production. He hasn’t really headlined his own series either unless you count that short-lived 1994 sitcom Wild Oats. Rudd is no stranger to the small screen, though. In fact, he started his career as a recurring performer in the NBC drama Sisters. Other notable appearances on TV include playing Phoebe’s boyfriend on Friends and Leslie Knope’s useless political opponent on Parks and Recreation. Furthermore, he has kept the spirit of Camp Firewood alive in two Wet Hot American Summer series.

Of course, many of us are more familiar with Rudd’s work in film. Long before he donned the Ant-Man suit and began discovering the secrets of the Quantum Realm, Rudd puttered around in supporting roles of both the comedic and dramatic variety. His cinematic breakthrough in Amy Heckerling’s Clueless is as fabulous a start as any young actor should hope for, even if it didn’t turn him into a bona fide leading man (although he did subsequently star in Overnight Delivery and the less conventional The Object of My Affection). Subsequently, early dramatic movie credits like Baz Luhrmann’s flamboyant Romeo + Juliet and the heartfelt The Cider House Rules solidified his status as an adaptable performer.

It was really the original Wet Hot American Summer that set the irreverent tone for eventuating Rudd films like the Anchorman movies and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Granted, far from being unentertaining, Rudd simply does the most for characters who are thinking the least. He makes them goofily memorable.

Rudd had equally unforgettable stints in Judd Apatow-directed projects The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and This Is 40. It’s actually rather criminal that Apatow never gave Rudd bigger roles in them. However, Rudd can always steal the show with the most minimal of content. Regardless, he has his own crudely comedic headliners to celebrate, namely I Love You, Man and Role Models, the latter of which was notably the first time he was credited as a screenwriter.

Ultimately, the stuff that skews more heartwarming get to me most of all. Ant-Man and its sequel totally fit the bill here by giving Rudd the chance to be a well-rounded leading man. On the more dramatic side, movies don’t have to blatantly attack hearts like The Perks of Being a Wallflower does. However, when Rudd gets to show off his range – for example, bringing realness and warmth to the darkly comical The Fundamentals of Caring – you’re going to be left overwhelmed.

As a result, I’m hoping a more balanced tone makes it into Living with Yourself. Greenberg isn’t that experienced as a screenwriter, having only penned an episode of The Detour and part of the TV documentary Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas recently. His two other writing credits, according to IMDb, are from 1997 and 2005 for a video game and short film, respectively. So, it’s tough to gauge his skill as showrunner.

However, Dayton and Faris are more of a sure bet. They’ve hit the jackpot 100% of the time with their movies, which play both kooky and sweet in just the right measure. Little Miss Sunshine is the perfect mix of dysfunction and heart, featuring a family so messed up yet so unbelievably easy to root for. Dayton and Faris’ sophomore effort, Ruby Sparks, is the ideal anti-manic-pixie-dream-girl movie that cuts especially deep as a cautionary tale. And finally, Battle of the Sexes is a triumph, a beautifully satisfying sports biopic that tunes into Emma Stone’s Billie Jean King so acutely, laying her emotions bare.

Let’s be real, any role that Paul Rudd touches turns to gold. He’s not always in good movies, but rather serves as the standout performer each time. To that talent, add the top-notch filmmaking of the likes of Dayton and Faris, and we’re definitely in for a treat.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)