“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage,” Indiana Jones quipped in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” But what about when your mileage catches up to your years? In the new Netflix original series “The Kominsky Method,” Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin star as two best friends battling senility as best they can with humor, rapid-fire insults and a quest for romance.
In the first episode, we’re introduced to Sandy Kominsky (Douglas), a once-renowned acting coach who’s still trying to hold onto his glory days. His agent, Norman Newlander (Arkin), is coping with issues of his own — his wife of more than four decades is on her last legs in her battle with cancer. It’s not surprising that as both Kominsky and Newlander realize just how old they actually are, the uncertainty of mortality seeps into their daily routines and begins to consume their minds. Even though these characters are of the Silent Generation, their anxiety toward aging and the inevitability of death is something we’ve all grappled with, whether at age 20 or 75.
“The Kominsky Method” doesn’t depict aging as a debilitating disease that strips an individual of the personality and bravery they had in youth. Instead, it tackles mortality with raunchy humor and honesty that allows its septuagenarian actors to portray characters with emotional breadth. The show’s jokes revolve around enlarged prostates, loss of bodily functions and the elderly dating pool and they are often made in a self-deprecating tone. It’s heartening to see acting legends command the screen once again.
In the ’80s and ’90s, films like “Fatal Attraction,” “Wall Street” and “Basic Instinct” catapulted Douglas into high demand in Hollywood. But starring roles for Douglas have not presented themselves as frequently as they used to. With Tinsel Town’s unfortunate aversion to thespians over the age of 50, “The Kominsky Method” is an impressive achievement both for Douglas and his co-star, Arkin. The show also marks Douglas’ return to the small screen since his run as Steve Keller on the 1970s crime show “The Streets of San Francisco.” His turn as Sandy Kominsky flaunts his comedic abilities — which were last on full display in his remarkable performance as Grady Tripp in “Wonder Boys” — that were neglected in his aforementioned films.
Aging is like receiving a diagnosis for a terminal illness — you never think it’s going to happen to you. That seems to be the reality facing pals Kominsky and Newlander. Their lives have whizzed past them without a chance to bid their former selves farewell. It’s a subject that treads the line between melancholy and comedy, and “The Kominsky Method” finds that perfect middle ground. By surrendering the screen to its two legendary stars, the show conveys that confronting aging is a universal sparring match — one that warrants artistic consideration and begs exploration in a Hollywood so rooted in youth.
“The Kominsky Method” is now streaming on Netflix.
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