The Kominsky Method is The Big C by way of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Or maybe it’s One Foot in the Grave for Hollywood A-listers/millionaires. Perhaps I’m being unfair, I think I likely am- I really did enjoy this eight-part comedy series screening on Netflix (what else? Even I’m bored of mentioning Netflix, God knows what you readers are feeling). Infact, I practically binged this series in three nights, it’s almost irresistible once you’re into it.
Its got a great cast- Michael Douglas is actually bearable, in one of the best roles I’ve seen him in for years, and Alan Arkin is just brilliant, the reason why I couldn’t stop watching it- his fragile, dour-faced grieving character is endearing and witty and a simple joy to watch.
But somehow I still feel guilty about enjoying it. It is very funny and finely observed with some great character moments, plenty of charm and affection, and yet… well, its a story of two old guys and their friendship, but its Hollywood. Its so bloody Hollywood. Sandy Kominsky (Michael Douglas) is an actor with his best roles far behind him, enjoying a career as an acting coach teaching his ‘Kominsky Method’ in his school. Norman Newlander (Alan Arkin) is Sandy’s agent and friend who has a hugely successful business in Tinseltown. Its hard to take things too seriously when they live such successful lives. After Newlander’s wife passes away her funeral service features Jay Leno as host and Patti LaBelle as entertainment. Maybe its intended as ironic but it just feels as alien and artificial as Hollywood itself, all glam and artifice and millionaires and their egos in a city of dreams. When Sandy runs afoul of the IRS, it’s hard to feel much empathy or belief in his predicament when his best friend can just gift him the $307,000 that he owes.
I guess its politics. I just wish they had the nerve to make this about two old freinds who didn’t live such glowing and exciting lives in Hollywood (even if their best days are behind them the ones they are in don’t seem too bad). I mean, Hollywood isn’t real, it’s artifice and lies and greed. Its as far removed from the real America as Stoke or Willenhall. Maybe seeing Michael Douglas as a janitor or ex-car salesman might have been a stretch, or Arkin as a shop-owner, but it would have seemed more genuinely real, you know? Even Sandy’s love interest (like Douglas always has to have a love interest, obviously) is a gorgeous sexy woman (Lisa, played by a ravishing Nancy Travis who is just too confident to convince as a widow trying out acting on a mid-life crisis whimsy). They live in such gorgeous houses and don’t seem to worry about paying the bills (Sandy’s run-in with the IRS being a brief sojourn into bill-anxiety quickly abated by a simple cheque). Hardly real life for most of us.
Having written all that, I will concede that I did really enjoy it (if in spite of myself) and would love to hear news of a second season getting greenlit. Arkin is just so good in this it’s untrue. I could sit down and binge my way through it all over again. As a life-affirming piece of comedy entertainment it’s like a warm blanket for those of us on the wrong side of fifty, but it might have been much more had it been a little more daring and less, well, comfortable, and less an aspirational myth about the American Dream and the glory of Hollywood. God knows the talent here is exceptional, it just needed to be more… more… well, risky.