I needed a good movie to cry to but didn’t expect to find it in a film Ray Romano is in. I didn’t particularly love Raymond but I am a fan of HBO’s Togetherness, which was the cancelled-far-too-quickly work of the Duplass brothers. In Paddleton, Mark Duplass plays Michael, neighbour and dying best friend, to Romano’s Andy.
The two live a very simplistic together, not-together life, sometimes mimicking the chemistry of couples who have seen decades together and are comfortable enough to not just fart in each other’s presence, but also assist in each other’s suicides.
The two grown men live in separate apartments, a flight of stairs apart, share a love for Paddleton (their made-up game involving squash, a wall, and a barrel), Pizza and Death Punch, a kungfu VHS movie featuring little to no actual kungfu. This makes the bulk of their partner-less, childless, goalless daily ritual. And the beauty of it is that they’re contented, as is.
At the beginning of the show, Michael is told that he is dying of cancer and was given the prescription needed to end it all on his own terms. He asks for Andy’s help to retrieve the medication from a pharmacist willing to sell it but one who lives six hours away. A road trip materialises.
If you’re hoping for them to get entangled in wacky adventures along the way, you’re not getting it. These are men who like living a quiet, stable, no-surprises kind of life, and they intend to keep it that way. Not even a half dressed woman in a hot tub can change that.
For most of the show, I’ve been waiting for some sort of emotional outburst from either of the two. Can you blame me? One refuses to continue living, and the other doesn’t live. Michael may be the one who is checking out, but he is leaving behind Andy, who has no other friends, is unreasonably anti-social, and an anti-tech curmudgeon who is difficult to love and hard not to pity.
It’s predictably human to expect Andy to at least ask Michael to reconsider. The fact that Andy doesn’t, at least not in a way that one would expect, and is as supportive as you could expect one to be, breaks my heart, over and over again. I didn’t expect a simple relationship between two ordinary guys to affect me this much.
[If this is all you needed to watch the show, please stop here, because I’m entering the spoiler zone at this mark.]
I noticed that Paddleton is marketed as a comedy-drama. It’s Ray Romano, you have to expect some form of awkward, unexpected humor from him. This scene in particular was hilarious, and not only to the audience. I’m sure Duplass wasn’t acting here. I’m surprised he didn’t break more often.
I also appreciated the film addressing the preparation of the last dose of medication Michael needs. The $3500 (you want to decide when you’re going to go, apparently, it’s going to cost you) they paid for included anxiety and anti-nausea meds, but the bulk of it was for a hundred of these green capsules that they needed to empty out, one capsule at a time, into a glass then dilute with 4 ounces of water.
While opening the capsules, Andy says “I don’t even know if you needed to buy this particular pill, I mean 100 pills of anything would… you know.”
But at no point does Andy asks Michael to not go through with it.
Up to this point, Duplass’s Michael was passive, barely sickly, barely emotional, barely there on screen. We naturally relate to Romano’s Andy because we’re not the ones dying. We’re the ones who are going to still be here after Michael has passed. We’re steeling ourselves to see how Andy is going to fare after Michael. Michael/Duplass is just there to die.
Then Duplass starts dying. And I cried so so hard. Then Michael dies. And I cried harder. And I cried again throughout this whole review. Which was exactly what I wanted but didn’t expect to do with a movie called Paddleton.