'Maniac,' Cary Fukunaga's Reality-Hopping New Show, Uses Human Connection to Stay Focused
Published Sep 20, 2018Maniac is a lot to take in. Its ten episodes whip through a vast array of styles, from spy thriller to fantasy epic, and the dizzying blend can make it hard to keep track of the action.
The dark comedy stars Emma Stone and Jonah Hill as Annie Landsberg and Owen Milgrim, two patients in an experimental pharmaceutical trial for a new drug designed to fix all their problems. The pair navigate through a series of hallucinated worlds as they seek the solutions to their ailments, while attempting to uncover the secrets behind the trial. All ten episodes are directed by Cary Fukunaga (True Detective season one).
The show focuses on the pair's relationship, which finds them subconsciously tethered together throughout the different dimensions, even as the organizers seek to separate them through their subconscious journeys.
"What resonated with me — and the thing that always made me sad when I was reading the script — was the longing for connection," says actor Julia Garner, who plays Ellie Landsberg, the younger sister of Stone's character. "I think that's really important, wanting to connect. The show is really about wanting to different connections. Life is about connections."
Garner believes that the realistic way the show portrays human interaction, even throughout the heady science fiction elements that drive the plot, is what will make it resonate with viewers. Though the series takes place in a slightly futuristic world where technology further isolates people, including seclusion pods and human advertisements, the humanity is heart of Maniac, as explored through Landsberg and Milgrim's fractured relationships with their families.
Speaking about the frayed on-screen relationship between the Landsberg sisters, Garner says, "I have an older sister and the sister dynamic — there was so much there and it was so real.
"That, to me, is very deep, having a sibling. I have an older sister and she's around the same age as Emma. A sibling stays with you for your past, present and future, more than parents. That, to me, is already a lot to work with. There's a lot of history to work through. There are certain things that you can discuss with no one else — not with your parents, not with your friends, only with your sibling."
As Maniac's ten episodes zip around through different time periods and realities, the way the show portrays its many relationships keeps it focused.
Maniac lands on Netflix on September 21.