Coming face-to-face with your own inferiority complex
Coming face-to-face with your own inferiority complex

How to spend next four hours on Netflix

THERE'S an intriguing concept at the centre of Living With Yourself and it has everything to do with our inferiority complexes.

Don't be cocky - everyone has one. Everyone feels like there's a better version of themselves - whether it's as simple as a version of yourself that didn't grab that piece of chocolate at 7.30am or the version of yourself that had the confidence to go after that promotion.

Imagine if that better version of yourself manifested right in front of you. That's got to make you spin out, and feel just a tad bad about your inadequacies.

That's what happens to Miles (Paul Rudd), a suburban, married adman who's a bit down on life - disengaged at work and at home, avoiding a fertility doctor's appointment and unable to write the play he's been at for years.

When his colleague Dan (Desmin Borges) refers him to a mysterious spa with a $50,000 fee, and the vague promise that it'll make him a better version of himself, Miles couldn't have guessed it would be so literal.

 

Seduced by the promise of a better you
Seduced by the promise of a better you

 

In the dinghy backroom of a largely abandoned strip mall, Miles drifts off with the sound of Enya's "Orinoco Flow" and the frantic argument about faulty gas between the two spa attendants. When he wakes up, he's bagged and buried in a shallow grave in the forest.

Original Miles wasn't supposed to survive - kind of like all those drowned Hugh Jackmans under the stage in The Prestige. (Before you get worked up, that is a 13-year-old spoiler so if you haven't seen The Prestige yet, that's on you.)

Rushing home, he finds himself face-to-face with, well, himself. Miles has been cloned. They've literally made a better version of him - one who's confident, competent and with bouncier hair and perfect vision, and no appendicitis scar.

Seeing this version of himself only highlights all of Miles' failings, forgotten ambitions and regrets. It also complicates things for him with his wife Kate (Aisling Bea) and at work where there's an important pitch for a telecoms account.

 

Um, something weird is going on here
Um, something weird is going on here

 

When New Miles refuses to go quietly off to Fiji or wherever, the two Miles must contend with each other's existence, and what the other makes them feel about himself.

It's not dissimilar to that season five episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Xander is split into two with one version of himself inheriting his best qualities and the other the worst - it's still the same person, it's a matter of self-perception and the ruts we sometimes get stuck in.

But Living With Yourself also taps into our anxieties about the pressures to always be "on", to strive for more, to be the best you can be when sometimes all you want to do is veg out, laze about and be contented in that moment.

It's an intriguing concept and it's resonant.

 

Are you the best version of yourself you could be? And do you have to be?
Are you the best version of yourself you could be? And do you have to be?

The show was created by Timothy Greenberg who had previously written for the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the indie darlings behind Little Miss Sunshine, Battle of the Sexes and Ruby Sparks.

Like Dayton and Faris' previous work, Living With Yourself is a relatively low-key project that relies on quiet and awkward humour.

And it wouldn't work without Rudd's double performance - and he's able to really distinguish these two versions of Miles through his physicality and his vibe while maintaining enough consistency that you believe he's the same person, especially when the show flashes back to an earlier time in Miles and Kate's life when both were more hopeful and positive.

But ultimately, Living With Yourself doesn't have an urgent, must-see appeal. It's more of a "sure, why not?" kind of deal, a perfectly diverting and charming enough series to while away about four hours, especially if you like the idea of two Paul Rudds.

Living With Yourself is streaming now on Netflix

Share your TV and movies obsessions | @wenleima


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