Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Kominsky Method (2018) * * * 1/2 (on Netflix)

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Created by:  Chuck Lorre

Starring:  Michael Douglas, Alan Arkin, Nancy Travis, Sarah Baker, Susan Sullivan, Lisa Edelstein, Danny DeVito, Ann-Margaret

Sandy Kominsky was once famous as an actor for a minute or two before settling into his life as an acting coach.   Unlike his counterpart played by Henry Winkler in Barry, Sandy is not one to vainly spout off his acting credits, mostly because he doesn't have any which anyone would readily recognize.   He has been divorced three times, which isn't a shocker, and his daughter Mindy (Baker) runs the business side of the acting school and is shocked to learn one day that Sandy owes $300,000 in back taxes.    Sandy is nonplussed, but more so when women forty years younger than he don't exactly swoon when he uses the cheap lines he did forty years ago.

Sandy's best friend is his agent Norman (Arkin), whose agency is still successful even though he has taken two years off to care for his dying wife (Sullivan).    With his wife's death imminent, Norman must learn to adjust to life after 42 years of marriage.    Arkin and Douglas (and their characters) are studies in opposites, and their chemistry is wonderful.    They play off each other with breezy familiarity like pros with exquisite timing.    It's a wonder they don't finish each other's sentences. 
Who knows?   Maybe they will one day.

The first season is eight episodes of quiet, gentle humor in a fast-paced show business world in which Sandy and Norman exist just outside of.    There are celebrity cameos by Elliott Gould and Eddie Money among others (Eddie actually performs on stage in Vegas in an Eddie Money tribute band in order to avoid the IRS).   The Kominsky Method creates numerous laughs with warm observation and intelligence throughout the season.   Sandy has prostate issues in one episode and his doctor (DeVito-in a nice reunion with Douglas from numerous previous films) tells him the good news, ("You have cancer, but the very slow moving kind,")   How is Sandy to take that?   He is as bewildered as we are, but in The Kominsky Method such logic is par for the course.

I was happy to hear a second season has been ordered.    There are plenty of comic gems to be mined from this material and from Sandy and Norman's friendship.   Sandy's career exists in between being a has-been and a never-was.   What's funnier is he thinks he has accumulated enough clout to argue with the director of a commercial he is starring in because the product he is endorsing isn't what it seems to be.   Elliott Gould, who is trying in vain to pitch an action film adventure starring himself, doesn't have such qualms.   At his age and Sandy's, you take what you can get.   

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