“It hurts to be human. It hurts like hell.”
The Kominsky Method, the new comedy series from Netflix created by Chuck Lorre, has a lot of immense talent behind and in front of its cameras. Michael Douglas stars as Sandy Kominsky, aging acting coach, who is fighting against the notion his better days are behind him, even with signs to the contrary. His friend and agent Norman (Alan Arkin) navigates older life with him as they face loss, what’s next, and fixing things long broken.
Douglas plays Sandy with an airy sense of comfortableness, his looseness in everything happening to and around him a stark contrast to his friend. Douglas is playful in his role, part quipster and part reactionary. He is excellent here, given something a little easier to play which isn’t as showy, but he does it so well, and it makes for a good performance. Arkin plays annoyed and demanding to perfection as Norman, whose life has been upended by tragedy. He gives the role a lot of heart and emotion, Arkin becoming the large standout in the season. The way he can go from funny to melancholic in just a moment really boosts the show’s standing, and he became an easy favorite of the cast.
Both Douglas and Arkin together are an odd coupling which works wonders for the show, as two best friends almost begrudgingly but lovingly close. It’s a fun dynamic, one which helps sell their personalities and their characters so well. Supporting players include Lisa Edelstein as Norman’s daughter Phoebe, an inspired choice as a relapsing alcoholic/drug addict whose life is a mess; Sarah Baker as Mindy, Sandy’s daughter, who brings a lot of character to her scenes; and Nancy Travis as Lisa, a romantic interest for Sandy who playfully comes in and out of his life at inopportune moments. Some cameos and guest stars are complete surprises, and while some can feel a little like stunt casting, the majority are there for laughs and work in the context of acting and agents.
The writing can be a little uneven, mostly in some things feeling a little out of date and done before. But the majority of it is clever observations about getting old, friendship, and family. Sandy faces a prostate scare in the earlier episodes, and it leads to a scene where he and Norman compare what happens if they laugh or sneeze. It’s a simple little scene, but it’s a good example of observation comedy and two great actors adding something to the material.
The main thing is the show is a pleasant, easy watch. Even when jokes don’t land or a story may not be working, it’s a smooth and enjoyable ride watching all of these greats. The best word to describe it is “comfortable”. It has a lot to say about getting older and what it means to different people. With that, it shows personal growth and finds the comedy in something everyone can relate to. The Kominsky Method is a comfortable time, and with greats like Douglas and Arkin at the helm, it is all the more fun to watch.
The Kominsky Method comes to Netflix on November 16th. All eight episodes were provided for review.