It’s very hard to spoil this one.
That is, because Maniac, another Netflix creation, is one of those series that goes really out there without completely explaining why. So, yes, this one is going to be one of those weird ones but whether or not it’s your cup of tea is very hard to determine. It’s not inconsistent but the storytelling will veer into strange territories. I can picture the audience that will like the creativity and with some just dreading the tonality. I don’t think it has a tone issue, but once we’re in full fantasy mode casual viewers might think they’ve switched shows.
Maniac feels a little bit off. It should. Leads Owen (Jonah Hill) and Annie (Emma Stone) are definitely not the characters that would expect to be the protagonists. You usually see characters like this as secondaries, so that’s perhaps the first thing that drew me in. These people are flawed, and not in a way that makes them seem cute. These flaws turn up the weird factor in a way less sinister than David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and more akin to the comical incompetence from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. As a matter of fact some of the futuristic elements randomly inserted would seem to come from Brazil if it had been made with 80’s nostalgia in mind.
Owen and Annie are complete strangers participating in a pharmaceutical testing who come from different backgrounds and have different agendas. The experience they will get will start separately, but the fun starts once they suddenly start synching up. The result is they get thrown into an alternate storyline as different characters. How exactly this happens is not relevant. It just becomes extremely entertaining to see them navigate each scenario and how this story has elements that come from their original backgrounds.
I will apologize for the lack of description, but finding out what the motif, style, decade and genre each scenario offers is so much fun that I’d rather dance around it than spoil it. Suffice to say that the less you know, the more fun you’ll have discovering it. So, very much like last week’s The Umbrella Academy, you will either love this one or hate it. I do believe the writing is really great in this one though, so you might find some middle ground in which you like some aspects and are not much a fan of others.
The scientific team running the experiment seem also like they need to be committed. This is the case of Dr. Muramoto (Rome Kanda) and later Dr. James K. Mantleray (Justin Theroux). Dr. Azumi Fujita (Sonoya Mizuno) seems to be competent enough until her next-level computer G.R.T.A, “Gertie”, experiences what seems to be a mental breakdown. This is where therapist Dr. Gerta Mantleray (Sally Field), mother to James and the original subject upon which the computer’s psyche is based upon, is called in.
Highly recommended but it will be an acquired taste. I think I was lucky enough to be in the mood for a quirky movie that doesn’t feel the need to completely explain itself. There’s a lot to absorb that you will learn by logic rather than exposition, such as the fact that you will notice certain futuristic elements without the show ever explaining the time period or the universe where/when the events take place. Funny where it needs to be and weird throughout, I hope there’s something in it for you to get you hooked.
That will do for now.