Rating (3 out of 5)
A start studded mini-series, that suffers from slow pace and downer characters but the baseline story is interesting enough for the audience to stick around to see how it all ends.
Plot: Two characters, Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill) and Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) are just making their way in this world while suffering from psychology problems, depression, chemical dependency, and schizophrenia. To get money, they both join a drug/treatment program in the last stages of testing. Everything doesn’t go quite as planned.
What I Liked: The reveal of what was driving Annie and then watching her confront her past and her guilt through the various dreams was one reason I kept watching. Her story is probably the more relatable of the various streams, because we all have suffered through death and guilt.
The idea of a artificial intelligence (G.R.T.A.) and how they had to add empathy as a safety net for the patients was interesting. Then of course, how the AI deals with death itself when the Dr. leading the experiment dies. Sally Field playing both GRTA and Dr. Greta Mantleray was great. She also played a few ogher characters embedded in the dreams. When Greta and GRTA were both inside the dream world together talking, it was very Sybilesque moment.
The underlying story about Owen and him testifying for his brother was an interesting component to the movie and how it was brought into the dream sequences. The idea of being loyal to the family above everything else was the a driving tension for Owen. You wanted to see what he would do at the trial.
There was an effect used a couple of times, where they are small characters in a diorama. Of course, this is in the dream world, but thought it was effectively used.
What I Didn’t Like: Owen was just a downer. His character weighed down the screen and by the end, you didn’t care really if he got better. You did care about how he testifyied, but the character was a bit too much on the creepy, please commit suicide already side.
There seems to be a movement in movies and tv that the director must use every tool at their disposal on the screen at any given moment. Colors, sound, animation, graphics, sets, clothing, etc. Often this becomes too much, and distracts from the story, and the story becomes secondary.
I feel this way about Maniac. The colors, they styles, the alternate reality, it is all a distraction from the two people who were suffering. Also, this was stylized as a 1980’s movie, but it wasn’t isn’t in our universe. So they were working on green screens (mainframe), which I haven’t seen in years, but they were working with a sophisticated AI. Then there was tons of cigarette smoking, especially by the doctors. All of that just didn’t fit together.
Conclusion: A decent story line and not bad character development, that were interesting enough that I stuck around to see how it ended. Too many extras by the director took away from the story.