There was a major hype surrounding the release of the new Netflix show Maniac in the months leading up to it. With two colossal Hollywood stars who have already proven that they have chemistry, a unique concept rooted in issues of mental health and three beautifully edited trailers, how could one not be excited? Unfortunately, all that hype dissipated upon finishing the first episode.
For the record, this show isn’t terrible. It had its moments, but, from the trailers, expectations were sky-high. Emma Stone, first of all, is probably the most likeable actress in all of Hollywood. Her massive enchanting eyes and extensive range make her consistently pleasant to watch and never boring. She plays Annie, a drug addict depressive whose life fell apart after a family tragedy and now walks through life bitter and alone. She decides to finesse her way into a pharmaceutical drug trial, which will include the drug she is addicted to.
Enter Jonah Hill’s Owen. Owen is a schizophrenic, the sullen and lonely son of one of the wealthiest families in New York. He has four older obnoxious and Trump-supporter brothers, one of which is being accused of rape, with his family forcing him to fabricate an alibi. This, combined with his hallucinations, has forced Owen into isolation and feeling as if he will never connect with anyone. He goes into the trial in hope of being “fixed”, he and Annie embark on a series of fantastical mental ‘reflections’, finding that they may have a “cosmic connection”.
Although both Stone and Hill are megastars, in terms of performances, the show is stolen by Sonoya Mizuno as Dr. Azumi Fujita, the doctor leading the trial.
Hill and Stone made audiences all over the globe laugh as Seth and Jules in Superbad and eleven years later, they’re still a great match. They have chemistry, but it really is not as strong as it needed to be to pull the plot along. All of their scenes in real life are awkward, cold and show no signs of love or care for one another. Stone’s Annie is purposely unlikable. She’s manic, neurotic, bitter and selfish. However, we find out that it is all justified. Stone totally steps away from her classic sweet and charming persona and is not afraid to step into some truly ugly character traits. Hill’s sombre Owen loses his novelty after a while as a one-note sketch of a complex mental illness, and subtitles may be necessary as he mutters like a twelve-year-old asking a celebrity for their autograph.
Although both Stone and Hill are megastars, in terms of performances, the show is stolen by Sonoya Mizuno as Dr. Azumi Fujita, the doctor leading the trial. Her eccentric dead-pan demeanour combined with her unbelievable outfits and soothing, eloquent voice makes her an-all round brilliant character to watch. Her chemistry with Justin Theroux’s Dr. James Mantleray is even better than Stone and Hill’s. This sub-plot offers the hopeless romance lacking between Owen and Annie.
The performances, chemistry and characters are all pretty great. The story and concept, however, needed some more time in the oven. Perhaps what creator Patrick Somerville was going for was a less bleak Black Mirror mixed with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and with a sprinkling of Skins. The Eternal Sunshine aspect is what really entices viewers, but you never see where Owen and Annie’s intense connection is coming from.
Overall, Maniac was an enjoyable watch, but it definitely was not as moving or epic as thousands of people probably expected
You don’t have an instant connection with someone just because you see their darkest moments. Yes, you can understand them better, but it doesn’t make you instantly fall in love with them or be willing to break them out of a psychiatric treatment facility. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is such an excellent film because it shows you exactly why Joel and Clementine’s relationship is so strong; they can’t forget about each other. With Annie and Owen, it leaves the audiences scratching their heads. They’re not romantically involved, but even with regards to their “friendship”, there’s no real evidence. Just because their reflections crossed paths in some show of cosmic fate, the audience is meant to accept that they are made for each other. That’s just not good enough. It’s only in the final scene that you see the two enjoying themselves in the real world, and it just seemed like lazy writing.
Overall, Maniac was an enjoyable watch, but it definitely wasn’t as moving or epic as thousands of people probably expected. The lack of explicit romance was an interesting move and a nice unique take on shows surrounding two heterosexual characters. To make up for lack of romance, everything else needed to be stronger. The concept, memories and overall plot were just not as moving or touching as they needed to be. With Maniac, we are just going to have to mourn what could have been, because it had so much potential. RIP.