The tenderly funny yet sad bromance dramedy “Paddleton” gives a decidedly male perspective on friendship, mortality, and morality. This strange little movie about two misfit neighbors who embark on an emotional journey when one of them is diagnosed with terminal cancer takes a turn when Andy (Ray Romano) is asked to administer an end of life concoction of pills to stop Michael’s (Mark Duplass) pain.
This strange little movie has a heavily improvised, very mumblecore feel. It was obviously created from a general outline more than a formal screenplay. Luckily the two leads are real pros at improvisation, as their natural rapport feel honest and genuine. The simple, focused story fits the material too. It’s a buddy movie (yes, even with a road trip).
The film has several standout scenes that are sure to leave an emotional impact, including one in the drugstore when the two go to fill a prescription for the assisted suicide medications, and another surprisingly beautiful riff on the preferred method of hauntings. It’s incredibly sad, yet appropriately funny when levity is needed.
Romano and Duplass both give excellent performances as unlikely friends, one a pessimist trying to manufacture hopefulness for his ill friend and the other a man who wants to enjoy every second he has left, even if that means eating frozen pizza and watching kung-fu movies. They have nothing in their lives material-wise: clunker cars, dead end jobs, crappy apartments; all they have is each other and their strong friendship.
The pair do a phenomenal job showing the emotional toll an impending death puts on both the patient and his best buddy, especially Andy’s reaction when he’s asked to assist with Michael’s medical suicide. He even buys a safe to lock up the medications as he struggles with losing his friend. It’s a remarkable scene of humanity and love, and the film is filled with many moments just like this: ones that are rooted in sincerity.