Sometimes actors tend to play to type. From movie to movie, their characters seem to operate within pretty much the same emotional range and have the same basic reactions and mannerisms. Humphrey Bogart would be an example of this type of actor, and John Wayne would be another.
I had the same general perception of Michael Douglas, viewing him as most comfortable in playing Gordon Gekko or another unlikable, bullying jerk who you hope gets his just desserts at the end of the film. Then Kish and I watched the two seasons (so far) of the Netflix series The Kominsky Method, and my preconceptions about Michael Douglas were absolutely destroyed. The show is a classic example of a well-known actor playing against type, and doing so brilliantly.
The title of The Kominsky Method refers to the acting class of Sandy Kominsky, played by Douglas. Sandy’s in his 70s, but he’s not ready to give up teaching — or acting, for that matter. The show centers around Sandy’s relationship with Norman Newlander, Sandy’s long-time agent and best friend played by Alan Arkin. Norman has been very successful financially and had a long-lasting marriage, whereas Sandy has gone through multiple wives, failed to pay his taxes, and hasn’t led the most responsible life — although he drives a terrific car. Now Sandy and Norman are dealing with the kinds of problems that men in their 70s must deal with — like prostate problems, energy problems, memory problems, sexual problems, health problems, and relationship problems.
The interactions between Sandy and the dry, biting Norman as they address the issues they are confronting are often hysterical — at least, to this reviewer who isn’t all that far from his 70s — and there is a fine ensemble cast that includes Sandy’s daughter, his daughter’s aged boyfriend, Sandy’s new girlfriend, and the students in Sandy’s acting class. The acting class scenes in particular are really interesting, as Sandy watches his students perform, teaches his approach to acting, and shows that he still has a lot of passion for trying to get people to take acting seriously as a craft. Sandy’s got some warts, but on the whole he’s charming, vulnerable, funny, and likable. You wouldn’t mind having a beer with him — but you might have to pick up the tab.
Michael Douglas, playing a vulnerable, likable character? That’s a big part of the reason Kish and I binge-watched and really enjoyed The Kominsky Method, and why we’re looking forward to season three.