The Chosen One!
Having A Day
Furs By Sebastian
Exactly Like You
Larger Structural Issues
Ceci N’est Pas Une Drill
The Lake of the Clouds
What do you get when you mix A Space Odyssey, Brazil, The Twilight Zone and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind? Probably something close to Netflix’s latest genre defying series, Maniac. While the opening few episodes plunge us head-first into this alternate 80s world, introducing us to our two protagonists and their personal lives, the rest of the episodes constantly reinvent itself as the series takes a hedonistic trip into a fantastical dream world. It’s at this point where Maniac really shines, setting it apart from other shows out there and solidifying itself as one of Netflix’s best originals of the year.
After a brief introduction, Maniac begins with our two main characters Owen (Jonah Hill) and Annie (Emma Stone). During the opening few episodes their stories run parallel to one another, showing how both are driven to a mysterious pharmaceutical trial through events that transpire in their personal lives. The trial itself boasts an end to their problems and worries through taking three simple pills. Of course, things don’t go to plan and the two characters are whisked away on a fantastical, bizarre and oftentimes dangerous journey into their psyche as they face their inner demons head on. This is where Maniac is at its strongest and the constant reinvention of ideas, characters and genres helps make Maniac quite the unique series.
It helps too that the chemistry between Jonah Hill and Emma Stone is sublime throughout the 10 episodes. Their natural on-screen partnership is realistically depicted and not once does the series fall into the trap of coming across as contrived or forced. It’s just as well too given the various different performances and personas they have to undertake, each one showcasing the impressive acting range of the two talented individuals. From a Russian CIA operative to a mullet-wielding gangster, Maniac is bursting with originality, all driven through the narrative undertones of drama and comedy that work harmoniously together
From the phosphorescent bursts of neon light to the retro 80s vibe oozing through the 10 episodes, Maniac’s cinematography is sublime, helping the series stand out. The composition is tightly refined with lingering shots helping to build up the comedic undertone running throughout. Whilst not an out-and-out comedy, there are some genuinely funny moments here which contrast beautifully with some pretty devastating and dark drama. The balance is on point throughout the series and it’s just as well too, Maniac features some pretty dark themes. For spoiler purposes we won’t divulge what these are but suffice to say, the two characters have their fair share of problems, helping us to understand just why they both act the way they do.
When it comes to the best shows of 2018, Maniac has to be in contention. Everything about this genre-defying series oozes confidence and charisma, helped along by stunning performances from the series’ two lead characters. Jonah Hill and Emma Stone have a natural chemistry on screen that really helps bring you in and revel in their increasingly bizarre and imaginative roles as the series goes on. The visual design is excellent and the story itself manages to dodge and weave its way through a series of character-driven scenarios, balancing comedy and drama perfectly before its satisfying finale that closes the show on a high.
Verdict - 9/10