‘Maniac’: A Beautiful, Bloated Mess

Jack Julow, Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






A couple weeks ago, my most anticipated show of all dropped on Netflix. Helmed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, director of the best True Detective season, Maniac, starring Emma Stone, Jonah Hill, and Sally Field, appeared to be one of the most exciting shows to debut on the platform. After seeing the spectacular action-packed trailer, I was expecting an epic genre-bending masterpiece. Then, I watched it.

Maniac troubles me deeply. It features what may be the best Emma Stone performance of all time, but it also possesses tonally-incoherent storytelling that takes two hours too long. I adore the ambition of the series and the wide scope of thematic undertones it tackles; however, Fukunaga either goes too big or not big enough depending on what people may want out of the show. Maniac deals with complex themes of suffering from mental illness, living in a post #MeToo era, struggling with grief, approaching an AI reliant world, surviving in a corporate-controlled world, and tearing down the unethical pharmaceutical industry. The aforementioned list only details a few of the many concepts Fukunaga tries to tackle.

If I had the option to watch this show again, I would eagerly wait through the Netflix logo and begin my sophomore binge. Fukunaga’s effort still warrants a view with truly exceptional scenes, particularly featuring Stone’s Annie Landsberg who feels responsible for the death of her sister Ellie, played by Ozark’s Julia Garner. After a grueling introductory episode, Maniac gains its footing in the second episode setting up Annie’s tragic backstory, and the episode still hurts my heart just to think about it. By the third episode, the miniseries settles into a format that sets up a somewhat predictable story arc.

Most of the crazy genre-bending scenes occur in the characters drug-induced headspaces, and each episode focuses on one specific hallucination at a time. While this narratively makes sense, it messes up the pacing with certain episodes dragging on too long and other exciting episodes being cut too short. Both the ‘20s and ‘80s heist-esque episodes stood out of the bunch with dazzling costumes and sets, while offering Stone and Hill the ability to showcase their range as actors. There are moments throughout the season that are spectacular with an epic gun shootout and a mafia twist scene, but they get lost in episodes that become poorly-made copies of the original thing rather than homages.

Maniac simply needed focus and less chaos. Having two protagonists, with one suffering from schizophrenia, created a whiplash effect that would keep taking me out of the story. I just wish that the story would’ve been centered around Stone, which is not meant to discount Hill’s performance but his character. Fukunaga cannot control all of what Maniac wants to accomplish, yet he still manages to make anything in the show look stylish and beautiful even when the story fails to equate to its cinematography. Maniac still compels me and keeps me thinking weeks after, so I would still recommend it. Flaws and all.

Maniac is currently streaming on Netflix.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Left
  • ‘Maniac’: A Beautiful, Bloated Mess

    Knight Life

    Knights VG: ‘Bloons TD Battles’ Review

  • ‘Maniac’: A Beautiful, Bloated Mess

    Knight Life

    Kid Freud Brought Unique Vocals and Sounds to the Nashville Rock Scene

  • ‘Maniac’: A Beautiful, Bloated Mess

    Knight Life

    ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ Captures All of Freddie Mercury

  • ‘Maniac’: A Beautiful, Bloated Mess

    Knight Life

    2019 Awards Season Off To Rocky Start

  • ‘Maniac’: A Beautiful, Bloated Mess

    Knight Life

    Young the Giant Tackles a New Sound on ‘Mirror Master’

  • ‘Maniac’: A Beautiful, Bloated Mess

    Knight Life

    Future and Juice WRLD ‘WRLD ON DRUGS’ Album Review

  • ‘Maniac’: A Beautiful, Bloated Mess

    Knight Life

    ‘The Good Place’ Sophomore Season Sets High Bar For Comedy

  • ‘Maniac’: A Beautiful, Bloated Mess

    Knight Life

    Bruno Mars ‘24K Magic’ Tour Review

  • ‘Maniac’: A Beautiful, Bloated Mess

    Knight Life

    Hippo Campus’ ‘Bambi’ Tour Review

  • ‘Maniac’: A Beautiful, Bloated Mess

    Knight Life

    ‘The Haunting of Hill House’: Both Fright and Delight

Navigate Right