"Maniac" the review.
A drug induced trip through the inner psyche of atypical minds and their coping mechanisms.
On the occasion I have not heard of, or watched trailers of, a new series that comes out, then there is nothing I enjoy more than just jumping into it blind without preparation otherwise. This mini-series caught me by surprise and gave me a rapt experience. My first viewing of the 10 episode first season was completed in less than 24 hours. Jonah Hill and Emma Stone produce some of the most magical on screen chemistry hearkening back to their younger days as stars in Superbad.
In a hyper-capitalist society where you can pay for cigarettes by having someone read ads to you aloud, a pharmaceutical company tests a revolutionary new drug that seeks to remove the most crippling portions of our psyche.
Owen Milgrim is his brother Jed's alibi for a crime, and the hearing is coming up. His entire family wants to make sure he is mentally stable enough to be up on the stand. Owen, who suffered a psychotic break once before has been barely keeping it together, and continues to imagine a different brother whom tells him "The Pattern is the Pattern" as well as that Owen is going to save the world. Owen enrolls himself in a pharmaceutical trial that is supposed to be the end of therapy, but things quickly change.
At the trial, Owen meets Annie, a woman who he recognizes from an advertisement, and he believes she is special. Before the trial starts, Owen confronts her, and Annie lies, telling him she is there to help him save the world. In actuality, Annie has been addicted to one of the drugs used in the trial, and went as far as blackmail and threatening an admittance attendant in order to become part of the trial.
Normally the drug induced realities brought about and measured by the super computer are self contained, but what may be fate or computer malfunction, Annie and Owen's experienced become inextricably linked.
The characters go through several different spans and lifetimes while in the trial, while multiple other side plots progress in tandem, the relationship between the two main characters remain at the forefront.
At the end of the trial, Owen realizes that all the specialness of Annie has been placed there by himself, and he offers to leave her alone forever, to not make the situation more than it was. Annie, likewise has dealt with her own trauma of being a terrible sister and daughter, and returns to her father to patch things up. At the trial, while lying under oath and protecting his family, Owen has a breakdown again, but one of moral authority and rightness. He corrects his statement, telling everyone he lied and his brother had committed the act for which he was under suspicion.
In the final act of the series, Owen has been put in a mental institution by his family for betraying them and Annie comes to break him out and escape, however because of other subtext within the show, one cannot be sure if this happened, or if it was within Owen's head.
It's hard for me not to gush about how much I absolutely love Maniac. The stars of the show have unique characters and Jonah Hill delivers an amazing performance of mental illness. The setting of the city and the universe in which the story takes place is just as rich and interesting as the characters that occupy them. Whether it be the AdBuddy system that allows Stone's character, Annie, to buy smokes, bus tickets, and other things by allowing another human to read off advertisements to them for a certain amount of time. This hyper-capitalist advent adds a layer of intrigue to the show, but is never covered further as it's not needed.
The level in technology both seems more advanced in some ways than our current tech in real life, but Maniac chooses to present it in a very 70's and 80's style, which combines for a retro-futuristic look that really gives the show a visual style.
The plot is wild and keeps you on the edge of your seat. There are a few twists and turns that may have seemed unnecessary, but the complexities add a degree of real life to it, as truth is often stranger than fiction.
For me, Maniac is a perfect 10. I'm not the only one to think so either. With 1 win as Golden Trailer's Most Original, and 11 other nominations across the board, Maniac is a must add to your list.