Netflix’s Maniac is a show starring Jonah Hill as a paranoid schizophrenic who gets delusions of a made-up brother that tells him his is going to save the world and to look for patterns. Emma Stone plays an addict who is obsessed with a drug that makes her re-live the worst day of her life over and over again and the two of them find themselves in a drug study that inadvertently connects their minds and chaos ensues.
I’ve been told I can be a bit of a negative Nancy, so let me start by saying I love the aesthetic of this show. Most movies and television shows depict worlds that are filled with futuristic technologies as this weird dystopian gray/blue hellscape where there is random tubing on the streets and it’s always raining. It’s like Blade Runner came out in 1982 and from then on, every director was like ‘yup, that’s the only way to shoot science-fiction’.
I love that I honestly have no idea what year this movie takes place. You could tell me with all of the tiny old televisions and the corny 80’s style instructional video before the Neberdine Pharmaceutical Biotech drug trials. Or it could take place 50 years in the future where Ads are living humans sitting next to us on the Subway.
I’m all in on Cary Joji Fukunaga. He won me with True Detective and that wild one-shot robbery sequence and I’m hyped to see what he does with the next James Bond movie especially after that last dream sequence with Emma Stone as a spy in that tracking shot of her kicking ass. Do more of that, Cary.
But let’s talk about Maniac’s proximity to Silver Linings Playbook, a movie that full disclosure, I do not enjoy.
Silver Linings Playbook seems to get mental illness wrong, relationships wrong AND being a sports fan wrong all simultaneously. Did Roberto De Niro really bet all of his money on Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawerence in a dancing competition with the Philadelphia Eagles winning in a parlay? That’s not how things in real life work.
But anyway, my biggest problem with Silver Linings Playbook, and movies like it, is that there is this lazy movie trope that love can just heal people. All you need is bae and your mood swings and bipolar disorder is long gone.
Jonah Hill seems to walk away from this drug trial having cured himself of schizophrenia with the magic of Emma Stone’s companionship. He literally has a farewell to his faux-brother Grimsson as if he now has complete control over his mental state. Thank god for love.
The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind aspect of Maniac almost completely took me out of this show. The love triangle between Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Kirsten Dunst was my least favorite part of the movie but I suppose it was necessary to show the real-life ramifications of the memory-erasing procedure as well as give Jim Carey and Kate Winslet more time to roam around without supervision.
The doctors in Maniac felt like they were in a completely different TV show. When the stakes are at its highest and it’s life or death for the protagonists, Justin Theroux’s character goes blind after confronting his mom, Sally Field, about being a bad mother.
Him screaming about being blind and rubbing the walls was a weird tonal shift, to say the least. But there were a few of those. The last dream sequence where Jonah Hill has the worst Icelandic/Dutch/Swedish accent and that is the joke of the whole dream was um, dumb. Or bad. Whichever. Both?
It’s like all of a sudden when the drama was at its peak, they chickened out and made lame jokes instead of further exploring the ideas that they were building for the previous 8 episodes. Jonah Hill repeating ‘it’s me, Owen. I’m the hawk’, was comic relief? I don’t know. I do not know.
But I’ll say this, when GRTA asks Emma Stone when she’ll ever feel better and Emma yells that no one ever gets better, that was some reaaaaal shit. It took them a minute to get there but it did. Life is hard and there isn’t a magic pill you take to fix that. Got it.
The story is told very Netflix-y in that you are given tiny breadcrumbs along the way but you have to sit and watch every episode to finally see the whole picture. I’m not saying that’s good or bad. It is what is it.
The acting was great from everyone all around. Sally Field crying in that elevator thing at the end was the exact reason why you cast Sally Field. Emma Stone acted her ass off and Jonah Hill played melancholy quite well. Put Sonoya Mizuno in every movie and TV show from now until the sun burns out.
Maniac’s ideas on mental illness and treatment and drugs and mourning came out eventually and it’s all interesting to soak in. You just have to sit and listen to these characters say ‘lemur’ an absurd amount of times and keep your phone on you to scroll through Twitter during all of the lame Lord of Rings-esque Emma Stone dream scenes and you’re good.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go play chess in the park with the local wise-cracking koala bear before I go testify against my brother in his rape trial. I’ll see you all in Salt Lake City, Utah.