What is reality and what is illusion is in the eye of the beholder even when it comes to supposed certainties. Is there climate change or just increased solar radiation? Do UFOs, Good Templars, God exist and if not, is the universe infinite or part of a much larger universe that is part of other universes? Where the most familiar reality still knows doubters – what should Owen Milgrim only say when a stranger on the park bench orders him to decipher the “pattern” of a conspiracy, otherwise … He says to himself: “I don’t want any of this,” looks at a kernel of corn, that pops up to popcorn on the floor and disappears inside its multiple personality, where nothing is what it seems.
The main character of “Maniac” shares that with every protagonist of this serial in-house production by Netflix, but because the Oscar-nominated Jonah Hill is so clearly schizophrenic as the offspring of an industrial dynasty, he takes part in a pharmaceutical study that is supposed to free him from the gloom of a messed up existence . And not just him. Since her life is similarly shattered – albeit by drugs, inability to bond and blows of fate of all kinds – the Oscar-winning Emma Stone (“La La Land”), the unapproachable Annie Landsberg, tests the same drug on behalf of a Biotec company.
Together with ten other test persons, the dissimilar but soulmate duo begins a ludicrous trip through three pill-initiated parallel worlds. Sometimes it reminds you of “The Sopranos”, sometimes of “Stranger Things”, sometimes of “Lord of the Rings”, but leaves it completely open after you have left whether the study is still running or has long ended.
Confusion has seldom been so entertaining
What is present / reality in this series? What future? What past? While hygiene robots collect dog excrement and cars seem more contemporary, computers look like in Bill Gates’ first garage and the hairstyles look heavily after the eighties. To further increase the confusion, people smoke compulsively everywhere, lights only flickering clinical or pale.
And when the black sheep of the very wealthy Milgrims retreats from the humiliatingly cheerful family celebration to his tiny apartment (in front of which, of course, a neon advertisement trembles), it remains strangely unclear whether the showrunner Patrick Somerville is about the forlornness of contemporary metropolitan areas.
As fantastic as the scenery, sound and staging are, the series not only lacks empathy for its main characters, whose states of mind remain almost constant from the first to the last second. What is more, it lacks any stringency in a continuous action. That makes “Maniac” incredibly entertaining, but at the same time a funny number revue in the style of “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” on the same portal.
On the other hand, confusion has rarely been so entertaining!
“Maniac,” on Netflix