Throughout the history of cinema, one of the lessons we've learned many times is the power of friendship. We've seen friendship on film in many forms. Hollywood has used friendship in fairly obvious metaphors and explorations. Other times, it hasn't been as easy to get to a certain point. But the way this business has used and explored friendship has been often times important and other times, just fun in general.
The Duplass brothers have been working on movies for years now. You may recognize Mark Duplass as a name by this point, because he seems to be an actor who is everywhere. Mark and his brother Jay, have been working in entertainment for a long time though. The secret weapon to many Duplass Brother movies is how the put a real-world, grounded edge on their comedy. They have brainstormed some very funny material in the past, but how they make it relatable to others and how accessible their comedy is has been remarkable to follow. While Mark Duplass co-starred and co-wrote "Paddleton," the new comedy now streaming on Netflix, and while the brothers both get producing credits, it certainly feels like a Duplass movie.
Mark Duplass plays Michael Thompson, an everyday Joe Schmoe type character. He is good friends with his neighbor Andy, played by Ray Romano. They seem to be fairly close as the movie starts, which is good because right at the beginning of the movie, Michael gets news that he has cancer. It doesn't seem like Michael has any close family nearby, and no other close friends. He's got Andy though, and they seem to spend lots of time together. Facing his morality, Michael and Andy go on a trip after Michael gets some medication for his cancer. What emerges is an unlikely bromance between these two friends, and how that friendship is tested along the way. Should Michael be living his life to the fullest or should he just commit suicide? Where does Andy fit into all of this? Should Andy just let Michael die simply because Michael doesn't want to struggle?
Over the course of the movie, we see Andy being put to the test. The bond between him and Michael is equally put to the test. I find it amazing how Mark Duplass' script co-written by Alex Lehmann squeezes laughs out of a fairly unfunny situation. That can sting, but I find it bracing when a script can find good humor like release valves in dramatic work. The Duplass' are masters of this kind of humor though, so it feels natural. This type of "dramedy" work is something Mark Duplass excels at and he brings a certain charm to his work as Micheal. This also feels like a revelation for Ray Ramano. We've just never really seen anything like the work from him that he does here, its very good work. The two actors pretty much hog the screen time here, is it was imperative that they work as actors.
There is some predictability here. But for the most part, this is a winner. An unlikely favorite in a rather slow part of the cinematic year routinely. A showcase of acting talent by Romano and Duplass and just a funny, heartwarming story overall.
FINAL GRADE: B