Paddleton (2019) is a comedy-drama that went from Sundance Festival to Netflix. Directed by Alex Lehmann, this film stars Mark Duplass and Ray Romano in this short 90 minute film about friendship. An unlikely friendship is made between two neighbours when Michael (Duplass) is diagnosed with cancer and is given little time left to live.
The driving force of this film are the two main characters, so they have to be interesting enough to hold an entire film. Whilst quirky and unique, both of these characters are easy to love and that is thanks to Duplass and Romano giving excellent performances here. The script is demanding and requires a real range of emotions, from humour and joy to sadness and anger. Both of these guys pull it off and create rounded yet damaged personas that work together.
This script is very simple, yet it felt suited for a project like this. It is a story that feels told over and over again, a story about watching someone deteriorate under a serious health issue, but there is a twist in the presentation by having it feel purely about friendship. It seems up to interpretation about whether it becomes more than friendship, but that is never a focus point on this story. The focus point is that two people can help each other and cherish their time together and live life as much as they can, and I appreciate how that came across here.
I also appreciate how much of the struggles they showed, especially from both characters. Whilst Michael might be the one that is physically deteriorating (and I appreciate that the film highlights problems like lack of sleep etc.), but it is also about the mental deterioration that Andy (Romano) goes through watching his friend suffer. He tries to help him, but he realises that it is only making him worse. He has to get past his own needs to put his friend’s one first, and they show that trauma in full glory and I appreciate that.
Whilst most films seem to drop in quality by the second half of the film, this one picks it up and has an incredibly strong ending. It is full of emotion and power, and I particularly liked how they chose to end the very last moment of the film. It felt like the right thing to do tonally for the film, and to be a satisfying conclusion to the story. This film also knows how to pace itself, as the 90 minute mark for a film like this seems about right. It gives you enough time to connect to the characters and their journey, but not too long that it overstays it’s welcome.
Whilst I fell in love with the second half of the film, it did take a while to set up the characters and their situation. It does feel a little bit of a push to get through, as these characters do feel a little bit too quirky and you are unsure what the full purpose of the film is. It is slow and there are certain events that occur that either feel unnecessary or forced, taking me out of the film for a bit. There is an ongoing gag throughout the film about a specific film that they love, and it was not until the end when I actually cared about their shared interest.
There is also a bit of unbalance between the drama aspects and the comedic aspects. Whilst I am glad that a film of this subject matter includes humour to lighten up the tone, I felt it was at some points used in the wrong way. Some of it worked brilliantly, such as the safe that Andy buys. Some of it though, such as the bar sequence, just did not work for me unfortunately. This film was strongest when it focused on the emotion and the drama, presenting a simple yet beautiful story.
This is a solid little film from Lehmann and Duplass and one that I am glad that Twitter highlighted to me, as I hadn’t even heard of it until a week or two ago. Whilst there is nothing in particular that is unique or special about this film by itself, it is a loving film and it is clear that a lot of care was put into it. As a Netflix film to watch and chill out to at the end of the day, I would recommend this to other people.
Have you checked out Paddleton yet? If not, do you plan on checking it out now? Let me know in the comments below and let’s have a conversation.