Review: PADDLETON Is A Well-Meaning But Somewhat Dull Drama

paddleton emu
Photo Credit: Patrick Wymore.

Paddleton is a new Netflix Original film, a dramedy starring Mark Duplass and Ray Romano. It is the story of two neighbors whose friendship is tested when one of them is diagnosed with terminal cancer. It debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival to positive reviews.

The story of the movie is relatively straightforward in a way that is somewhat aggravating. With Duplass having co-written, produced, and starred in the film, you would expect it to be quirkier and more unique. Paddleton, while not bad, is nothing more than a mixture of a road movie and a cancer drama.

The character development in the movie is sufficient, but not to the level at which it should be. There is a lot of sympathy for the characters, mostly resulting from the situation in which they find themselves. This definitely allows the film to function, but does not give it room to go any deeper. Had there been more time devoted to the characters early in the movie, the rest could have benefitted.

paddleton doctor
Photo Credit: Patrick Wymore.

The film also lacks the humor characteristic of the other movies written by Duplass. As a result, the pacing is much weaker and it almost feels boring when compared to the rest of his work. The film is definitely still watchable, but there isn’t anything about it that makes it feel different from other buddy end-of-life comedies.

That being said, the movie does have a strong emotional foundation to it, and this is the area in which the film is most successful. You will definitely feel sympathy for the characters’ struggles. This is not one of those movies that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy at the end, but it does have some heartwarming moments. The focus, instead, is on realism. As a result, you will end up being depressed more than anything.

paddleton couch
Photo Credit: Patrick Wymore.

The acting in the film is also one of its strengths. Duplass and Romano have great chemistry together. Both of them do an excellent job in their roles, hitting the emotional beats of the movie quite well. Duplass is able to capture the nuance of his character quite well, especially in the latter half of the film in which he is faced with internal conflicts. Romano complements him quite well, stealing the scene in multiple cases.

In technical terms, the movie was pretty strong. The cinematography is simple but effective. It does a very nice job of capturing the emotion of the characters. The use of sets was great too. The eponymous made-up game is played a few times over the course of the film at a drive-in theater, and this adds a lot to the overall feel of the movie.

Overall, Paddleton was a decent film with solid acting, but it was not original enough to live up to the expectations set as a result of the talent in front of and behind the camera.

Paddleton is available on Netflix beginning February 22.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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