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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Paddleton is a comedy with serious underpinnings that make it both funny and poignant. The topic of legal, assisted suicide is at the heart of the story as two male friends confront the impending death of one of them from terminal cancer. Viewers can expect a few curse words ("f--k," "s--t") and one scene in which the main characters consume alcohol to the point of drunkenness. A hot tub sequence finds both of the men naked (no visible nudity), embarrassed by a woman's unexpected arrival. A reference is made to gay partnership, and a woman briefly tries to seduce one of the leads. This unconventional film is always restrained with even the most dispiriting moments played quietly. The humor is wry, character-based, with human vulnerability at its core. It's a solid and heartfelt production, consistent with the previous work of Mark Duplass one of the writers of this film as well as one of its two stars. Though the movie isn't intended for kids, mature teens might find it rewarding.
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What's the story?
Two best friends, Andy (Ray Romano) and Michael (Mark Duplass), spend almost every leisure moment with one another in PADDLETON. Both basically loners at heart, they are content to share pizza, a kung fu movie they know from memory, and "Paddleton" -- a racket game they love to play. When Michael is given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, their small but satisfying world is upended. Michael decides that rather than endure a lengthy, painful decline, he wants to end his life on his own terms. He asks Andy to help with a legal assisted suicide. Reluctantly at first, then fully committed, Andy agrees. The men take an affecting overnight road trip to obtain the drugs they will need, and then prepare to carry out Michael's plan.
Is it any good?
Understated, with a low-keyed improvisational style, Ray Romano and Mark Duplass deliver complex, heartfelt performances in a simple story that defines an authentic friendship and intimate loss. With its leisurely pace, droll humor, and focus on two men who may be initially categorized as "losers," Paddleton may not appeal to all audiences. But Alex Lehmann and the two actors accomplish the rare feat of turning those antisocial underachievers into sympathetic, even heroic men. Ray Romano continues to delight in a role that capitalizes on his comic skills and reveals that he's a gifted actor as well.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that at the time of Paddleton's release, assisted suicide is a controversial topic. How did this film deal with the subject? Did Michael's decision feel justified? Acceptable? Moral? In what ways, if any, did this movie change your ideas or attitudes?
Movies can usually be divided into three classifications: character-driven, plot-driven, or action-driven. Define each of these genres (i.e., what makes a movie "action-driven"?). Into which category does Paddleton fall? Explain.
Find out the meaning of film and theatrical term "two-hander." What makes Paddleton basically a two-hander?
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