Paddleton follows socially-awkward neighbors Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano) as their friendship is tested after the former is diagnosed with terminal cancer, with the bulk of the narrative detailing the characters’ road trip to a small California town to procure medication that will essentially kill Michael in one fell swoop. Filmmaker Alex Lehmann, working from a script written with Duplass, delivers an extremely low-key drama that is, admittedly, often just a little too slow-moving for its own good, and yet it’s ultimately clear that Paddleton comes off as a consistently watchable endeavor that’s heightened by the superb, engrossing efforts of its stars – as Duplass and Romano step into the shoes of their respective characters with an ease that’s generally nothing short of hypnotic. (Duplass is as typically excellent here as ever, but the real surprise is Romano’s subtle, heartbreaking turn as a somewhat prickly figure.) The meandering narrative doesn’t contain much in the way of surprises, to be sure, with the picture succeeding primarily as a portrait of a real, down-to-earth friendship between two men – which ensures, certainly, that the happenings within the third act pack far more of an emotional punch than one might’ve rightly expected.

*** out of ****

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