The Netflix Highlight: “Paddleton.” This movie debuted on Feb. 22.
Premise: Two neighbors and best friends spend all their free time together after the younger of the two men develops terminal cancer. They rely on each other as significant others, even if their relationship is sexless, and so these final days are full of heartfelt emotion and longing for more time. Ray Romano plays the older friend, while Mark Duplass plays the man with cancer. Duplass also co-wrote this.
Sum up: In television, writers often create something called a “bottle episode,” which saves money by keeping the characters trapped in one or two sets. These episodes often earn critical praise despite the lack of budget because the trapped characters are forced to talk to each other in more depth, which typically leads to emotional wrestling. Given the lack of movement and awe of sets, the writers of these episodes tend to try to make the simple setups as interesting as possible through diving into emotional pain to carry the story. “Paddleton” is basically one long “bottle episode” with an incredibly low-budget setup carried by just two main characters talking to each other over an hour and a half. At times, this feels like straightforward comedy, with two funny characters just bs-ing back and forth. But the deep love felt between the two men and the specter of the long goodbye elevates this small story of poor, down-on-their-luck characters beyond just a story-craft achievement in doing much with little.