Paddleton is Further Proof Ray Romano is a Great Actor

Even on Raymond he was underrated, and now, pivoting to indie drama and quiet comedy, Ray Romano is finally getting the critical plaudits he’s long deserved. Watching Paddleton and Romano’s Netflix special back to back only clarified for me his newfound ability to disappear into these lovably annoying sad-sack characters. Paddleton is the latest improv riff session from Mark and Jay Duplass, founding members of Mumblecore. Two single, middle-aged neighbors watch kung-fu movies and gorge on frozen pizza in between menial jobs and playing a game they invented called Paddleton, but their world is thrown awry when Michael (Duplass) is diagnosed with terminal cancer. While Andy (Romano) is the anxious half of this odd couple, atheist Michael seemingly takes it in stride. Deciding to partake in end-of-life medicine (it’s a thing in California), the pair trek it to a kitschy town in the middle of nowhere to nab his meds and spend the night at a theme motel. Take away the cancer and Paddleton is still a pretty sad (or bittersweet) movie about lonely men and the depth of their platonic bond, a relationship they’re often side-eyed for wherever they go. Watching them bounce off one another like real people, real friends is a mild delight, and a late reversal is key to understanding the crux of their friendship. The low-key plot and minimal humor culminates in a scene so profound I have to recommend the entire film. If not for Romano’s funny/sad turn, then for those revelatory final scenes.

Grade: B+

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