Paddleton - 2019
Director(s): Alex Lehmann
Writer(s): Mark Duplass and Alex Lehmann
Cinematography by: Nathan M. Miller
Editor(s): Christopher Donlon
Cast: Mark Duplass, Ray Romano, Jen Sung, Stephen Oyoung and Christine Woods
Duplass Brothers Productions have quietly made a name for themselves in Hollywood. Having had their name attached to movie titles such as; Cyrus, Safety Not Guaranteed, The Skeleton Twins, and Tangerine. So, it came to no surprise when Netflix gave them a four-picture deal. Paddleton is the first to come out of the said deal, and this is a taste of things to come, I am more than excited for the remaining three. Let's talk about it.
The story follows Michael and Andy (Duplass and Romano), an unlikely friendship built out of a mutual love for martial arts movies and homemade pizzas. We are dropped right after the moment Michael learns he has incurable cancer, and Andy is freaking out. Michael decides that he is ending his life and not cancer. The nearest pharmacy that prescribes the "right to die" medicine Michael wants is hours away, so he and Andy decide to make a road trip out of it to spend more time together. Their friendship grows in the process, making it hard for Andy to accept his friends nearing death.
The screenplay was penned by Mark Duplass and director Alex Lehmann, and they managed to create a balance between the dry wit humor of both characters and the deeply touching relationship between two friends. The certainty of Michel to end his life on his own term is balanced out with the uneasy feeling from Andy, as he simply cannot deal with the fact that he is losing his friend. Andy is the type of person you immediately find annoying, but Michael’s endless patience and calm demeanor balance him out and you understand the reason why they have become such close friends.
Lehmann direction is barebone and straightforward, almost making it come across as a documentary, elevating the emotional impact of the end. While Mark Duplass is great as Michael, and the final scene is gut-wrenching this film belongs to Ray Romano. His nuanced performance is incredible as he is always fighting back his fear and anger he is repressing for the sake of his friend. Roman is also the funniest aspect of the film and had me laughing despite the horrible situation depicted.
The screenplay from Duplass and Lehmann crosses the line many Hollywood movies for some reason avoid, and that is a friendship represented without the need to make fun of it or them. Paddleton is a beautiful portrayal of two friends that love each other as they bring one another the companionship they deeply needed in this world. And it is elevated by the incredible performance from its leads. Sadly, Ray will be forgotten in the shuffle of the years, since it came out so early, but this is one of if not his best performance.
Paddleton is Glass Half Full.
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