Cary Fukanuga is one of our most gifted artists. His projects have been iconic works of a different breed. Whether it’s a brooding detective series, a story of kid soldiers in the Congo, or a movie about a suave British Spy (pending, of course.) There is no denying his work is iconic; visual and visceral all at once.
Now he turns his eye to a brand new show about mental health and psychedelic drugs.
Maniac is a Netfflix mini-series based on a Norweigan television series of the same name. It is set in a not-too-distant future where commercials have taken over day to day life. Folk can “Paranoid schizophrenic” Owen Milgrim and grieving depressive Annie Landsberg are indicted into a trial to test a drug that aoms to battle mental illness. In the three-day long drug trial at Nebrine Pharmaceutical, the pair unexpectedly meet and due to some unexpected complications, find themselves locked together through treatment, side-effects, and their cures.
Emma Stone and Jonah Hill were first seen together in the greatly received comedy Superbad. That chemistry they carried whilst they were young has carried forward years later and the couple are intensely greatly here. As their lives begin to fuse and bend and shape with one another, they perform as different characters in different scenarios, fusing no matter who they are. It’s a gloriously fun relationship they have with bitter moments too; the pair spark together and make this a great watch.
That’s not to say that they aren’t great apart. Emma Stone is one of the world’s most gifted actresses who uses her particular brand of humour and charisma to charm you. Then once you are completely besotted, she strikes with sorrow or darkness, a punch that smarts.
Jonah Hill’s best performance as a quiet unassuming man who suffers from the pressures around him. As he sees and hears things that may not be real, Hill really grounds Owen with a sense of realism. He is emotive and expressive as he flips through different scenes and mindscapes, using a bare minimum of facial movements to convey a whole range of feelings in an engrossing performance.
Supporting actors Justin Theroux (who really has had a career of doing awkwardly funny things with equally funny wigs,) Gabriel Byrne, Billy Magnusson, and Sonoya Mizuno are fantastic at establishing this world of voices pushing and pulling our protagonists.
There’s also a phenomenal visual style that places one foot in the that you aren’t quite sure if this is an alternative reality, a distant future, or maybe a combination of the two. The movie hones in this neon world that is filled with 20 ft adds and you can get your train ticket for free, just as long as you have someone accompany you to try and sell you adds. It works best because this is very well established. The old-school computers and brilliant eighties training video combined with futuristic medicine and technology craft this unique setting. It feels original, light-hearted and brilliant.
The show feel like part Blade Runner, part Legion, and part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and surprisingly it works very well. It is a layered and sublime show that delves deep into the psyche of human grieving in intimate and extreme ways. This is an exciting show to follow.
Maniac is available on Netflix now!