I love Paul Rudd, and you love Paul Rudd. He’s played such a nice underdog so many times that we naturally gravitate towards him as a guy that we want to hang out with. We can trust him. Apple TV+’s latest limited series, The Shrink Next Door, takes that trust and runs it over without looking back. It’s Rudd’s most layered, conniving performance.
Based on the podcast of the same name, The Shrink Next Door details the relationship between psychiatrist Isaac Herschkopf (Rudd) and his patient Marty Markowitz (played by Will Ferrell). Marty is reluctant to go to therapy in the first place, but his sister Phyllis (Kathryn Hahn) encourages him to go just once to help with his self-confidence. Marty and Phyllis’ father recently passed away, leaving his son in charge of the family’s New York City fabric factory, but Marty doesn’t think he can handle the responsibility nor does he think that his workers respect him enough to get the job done. It couldn’t hurt for Marty to gain confidence with women, either.
Because Rudd and Ferrell have starred in several comedies together, their chemistry is easy and rather likable at first. During Marty’s initial consultation, they casually go on a walk and participate in a neighborhood basketball game. Ike is quick to point out that it’s easy for people to take advantage of Marty because he’s too nice and he doesn’t know how to stand up for himself. Marty never pushes blame on anyone, so people can walk all over him and he makes an unconscious effort to get out of everyone’s way. Everyone is living their lives how they want to, but Marty doesn’t know how.
The bond between Ike and Marty grows intense quickly, and Marty, yet again, can’t see how he’s being manipulated by his therapist and becomes defensive of the friendship to everyone, especially his sister. When Ike begins to slowly take Marty’s money, there’s a disturbing excitement in Rudd, but you rarely see him sweat. If director Michael Showalter didn’t get us to believe the friendship, the entire thing would fall apart and it would become very rote very quickly but it never does.
Ike Herschkopf is Paul Rudd’s Tom Ripley. Rudd taps into his own charm and that mischievous nature but poisons it with Ike’s greed and selfishness, and Ike’s ambition to be liked and admired is both tragic and unsettling. He’s a scheming devil in a Ralph Lauren tennis sweater. Ferrell takes Marty to the point of being too pathetic but draws him back. There is a strength that Marty doesn’t see in himself that we know Ferrell is capable of. If you were sad that Hahn didn’t win the Emmy in September, please take solace in what she does here. Phyllis is pushy and loud, but her heart is big, and she is a woman whose instincts have never let her down until now. When she isn’t on screen, you truly miss her.
We rarely see men talk about their feelings as much as they do in The Shrink Next Door but Showalter and Jesse Peretz allow Rudd and Ferrell to wallow in their grief and their glee. Ike and Marty had something meaningful, but the wrong piece of advice can lead down a destructive path.
The Shrink Next Doordebuts on Apple TV+ on November 12.