Thursday, March 02, 2017

Love & Taxes: Grow-Up Man-Child

Sure, we’ve all worked hard and paid our taxes, because that is what it means to be responsible. However, Josh Kornbluth expects a standing ovation when he finally pays his taxes after seven years. Of course, he also expects sympathy when he subsequently makes a hash of his finances through his own boneheadedness. He will tell viewers exactly why in his hipster monologues that provide the constant narration of brother Jacob Kornbluth’s Love & Taxes (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

As Kornbluth repeatedly tells us, he was a red diaper baby, so his Communist parents were ideologically opposed to paying taxes. Okay, nice to know they also supported the Moscow Show Trials, the Ukrainian famine, the invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and martial law in Poland. Shouldn’t they have supported confiscatory taxation, since they did not believe in private capital? Eventually, Kornbluth will reach that conclusion himself, but first he runs up massive amounts of billable hours with his “holistic” tax attorney, Mo Glass and sign over rights to his one-man show as security for his debt.

Maybe the timing is unfortunate for L&T. Jonny Donahue is just infinitely more compelling bringing Duncan Macmillan’s one-man-show Every Brilliant Thing to life for HBO than Josh Kornbluth is as the meta version of his brother Jacob. Tellingly, Donahue is able to hold our attention from the stage, in live performance, with no taped vignettes to fall back on, whereas L&T blends monologue and dramatized passages, sort of like a Seinfeld episode, but the mix is nearly one for one. Yet, Brilliant Thing is hands down more compelling.

Frankly, anyone who works for a living will have trouble ginning up much sympathy for Kornbluth. The political references are also over eight years out of date (Dick Cheney hunting jokes? Seriously, that’s the best they can do? How embarrassing.)

Again, perhaps it is unfair to measure it against EBT, but the stakes in L&T just seem low in comparison and there is no denying all of Kornbluth’s troubles come from unforced errors. Frankly, the only likable character Bob Shelby, Kornbluth’s former tax attorney boss, Bob Shelby, played with restrained deadpan charm by David Keith (not the one from An Officer and a Gentleman). As a work of cinema, L&T mostly just feels small and self-absorbed. Not recommended, Love & Taxes opens tomorrow (3/3) in New York, at the Landmark Sunshine.