Combustible Celluloid
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With: Josh Kornbluth, Sarah Overman, Helen Shumaker, Warren Keith, Robert Sicular, Nicholas Pelczar, Harry Shearer, Robert Reich, Anthony Nemirovsky
Written by: Josh Kornbluth
Directed by: Jacob Kornbluth
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 90
Date: 03/17/2017

Love & Taxes (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Overdue Revenue

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It has been some time since I've seen the great San Francisco monologist Josh Kornbluth on the big screen. In 2001, he and his brother Jacob adapted his show Haiku Tunnel into an independent movie, which I loved.

A couple of years later came the movie version of an earlier monologue, Red Diaper Baby, which was good, but less interesting; it was more or less a filmed monologue. Jacob went on to make a great documentary, Inequality for All, and Josh had small parts in indie movies, notably a couple by fellow Bay Area resident Lynn Hershman-Leeson (Teknolust, Strange Culture).

About a decade later, here he is, looking none the worse for wear (i.e. he looks exactly the same), in a big screen adaptation of his monologue Love & Taxes. This one is once again directed by Jacob, and it's lots of fun, referencing all of Josh's earlier pieces. However, if you're not already familiar with Josh and his work, then it could leave you wondering what the big deal is.

Josh plays himself, working as a temp for genius accountant Bob Shelby (Warren Keith). Bob goes to see one of Josh's shows and is flabbergasted that, because of Josh's Communist father, he hasn't filed taxes in seven years. He goes to see Mo Glass (Helen Shumaker), who offers to help him. He files for the first time, and good things start happening. He meets Sarah (Sarah Overman), and a Hollywood producer (Harry Shearer) options Josh's monologue.

Josh goes off to a Hollywood bungalow to write a screenplay. The money rolls in, and before long, Mo, the IRS, and the Franchise Tax Board of California (which Josh imagines as an Italian family called the "Fran-CHEE-says") move in to collect what they're owed, which amounts to more than $26,000, plus penalties and interest.

The film cleverly crosses footage of Josh delivering his monologue, Josh playing himself in "realistic" scenes, and then a few "fantasy/dream" sequences, such as Josh marching down the streets of "Kornbluthia" with his father, or Josh meeting Dick Cheney. Love & Taxes veers into meta-movie territory when it begins following Josh and Jacob's foray into filmmaking, including the shooting of Haiku Tunnel and their trip to Sundance to screen it.

Love & Taxes is mildly funny; it inspires more smiles than it does laughs, but this is because we genuinely care about Josh and his predicament. During the monologues, he's good at deconstructing himself and explaining his fears and neuroses, but watching him play out the story, he just seems like a lost soul that needs rescuing. "You're a child!" Sarah screams at him during a fight, and we can only shake our heads and agree.

But Josh is a wonderful talent who certainly deserves a success, whether it be on stage or in the movies. I'd recommend going back and checking out Haiku Tunnel, and, if you enjoy it, then rush out and see Love & Taxes. It opens March 17, 2017 at the Roxie Cinema in San Francisco.

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