The “life do-over” is an enduring storytelling concept, usually carried out through time travel or Freaky Friday body-swaps. Netflix’s new comedy Living With Yourself finds a fresh, weird way to give its hapless hero a second chance, while driving home an equally enduring lesson: Stop whining and appreciate what you have.
Middle age hasn’t been kind to Miles Elliott (Paul Rudd). He’s burned out and checked out at his ad agency job, and things aren’t any better at home; he and his wife Kate (Aisling Bea) have reached the muttering-angrily-while-walking-out-of-rooms phase of their marriage. On the advice of a smug co-worker (Desmin Borges), Miles heads to the Top Happy Spa for a “cleanse” of sorts — and later discovers he’s been cloned. To add insult to bioethical injury, New Miles (also Paul Rudd) is superior to Old Miles in every way — he’s brimming with more creativity, charisma, and optimism than his identical DNA twin could ever hope to possess.
Created by Timothy Greenberg (The Daily Show), Living With Yourself takes a comically practical approach to its Multiplicity-esque premise. Like many of us, Old Miles is certain that the mundanities of life — work pressures, social obligations, etc. — are what’s holding him back from being his best self. But as the narrative unfurls, through flashbacks and Rashomon-style retellings of the same event, it becomes clear that things are not that simple. The show finds the expected level of comedy in the difficulties of clone logistics (keeping stories straight at work, shielding Kate from the truth), but really, Living With Yourself has bigger questions on its mind: Is a shared relationship history a burden or a blessing? Is happiness something we deserve or have to earn? And for God’s sake, why must we always be our own worst enemy? “You ruined my life!” Old Miles bellows at his clone during one of their blowout fights. New Miles shoots back, “You ruined your life!”
Rudd has always been in the upper echelon of Hollywood’s Most Likable Actors, and he’s typically appealing as Living With Yourself’s dual leads. While some of the differences between the Mileses are cosmetic — Old Miles looks like Paul Rudd if he were very tired, out of hair product, and wearing yesterday’s clothes — Rudd brings a separate depth and identity to each version of his character. Old Miles is a man who finds almost everything unbearable, while New Miles — who was “born” with all of Miles’ memories — mourns a life he remembers but never actually lived. Even mundane interactions with Kate thrill New Miles, as when she calls her husband (or so she thinks) and asks him to pick up the dry cleaning on the way home. “On my way home?” echoes New Miles, his eyes filling with tears. It’s a small but moving moment, a reminder that having someone to come home to is, in fact, a gift.
Living with Yourself is perfectly calibrated for binge-watching. Several of the episodes end abruptly, at the peak of cliffhanger tension, and the eight half-hour installments whiz by in a satisfying rush. We could all use a break from living with ourselves, so spend a few hours with Miles and Miles. You’ll come away refreshed. B+
Living With Yourself premieres October 18 on Netflix.