Monday, August 2, 2021

Review: ‘Made For Love’ Is One Obscenely Funny Psychological Thriller [SXSW Online 2021]

A dark, yet hilarious, new series is making its way to HBO Max.

Made For Love, starring Cristin Milioti (Palm Springs), Billy Magnussen (Into the Woods), Ray Romano (Something About Raymond), Noma Dumezweni (The Undoing), and Dan Bakkedahl (Veep), follows Hazel Green after she escapes her 10-year marriage to Byron (Magnussen), a suffocating a tech-billionaire.

From the very first scene Milioti’s wayward glances set the tone that something is amiss. What is shown to the public is not what life if like behind closed doors for a woman who seems to have it all. By all outward appearances, Hazel wants for nothing; she has a rich, doting husband, a beautiful home, even a dolphin, but beneath the glamorous facade lurks something much more sinister.

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Made For Love shoves an under represented aspect of power in relationships into the spotlight. The character of Byron is written as the perfect gaslighter — narcissistic, obsessive, controlling — and he has the power to keep Hazel beneath his thumb, both from the chip he implants into her brain and the promise of a better life. He’s a master manipulator, perfectly tuned, and Magnussen plays him brilliantly.

The set designs are remarkable, the contrast between Hazel’s two worlds stark, yet the writing blurs the lines as to which of her lives is worse. Herb, Hazel’s father played by Ray Romano, shines as a an out of touch parent who has clearly been having trouble navigating his life since the loss of his wife and his daughter’s departure.

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Humor is expertly woven into the dark, psychological thriller, giving it the lightheartedness it needs for easy watching. In a show that could have taken a dark turn quickly, they keep us on our toes as we cringe at Byron’s behavior and then moments later find ourselves laughing at a perfectly placed joke. Milioti was made for this role, her ease in slipping between the comedic and dramatic skills needed to bring Hazel to life will give you whiplash, her nuanced facial expressions sometimes saying more than words ever could.

The writing is brilliant, led by an all-female team, that flips the typically masculine topic of technology, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence and spins it into the female eye. It dives into how technology is gearing up to destroy us and our relationships as we know it, we just have to open our eyes and see it. Above everything however, it is a story of female empowerment as she finally escapes her abuser and reclaims her life, no matter what it costs.

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Made For Love premieres on April 1 on HBO Max.

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Kaity
Kaity started with Harry Potter in second grade and it’s been a losing battle ever since, or maybe a winning one ... She lives in New England with a small herd of cats, two dogs, three chinchillas, and one daughter. Her main fandoms are Marvel, The Umbrella Academy, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, with special emphasis on one vibranium shield-wielding Super Soldier. Contact: kaity@nerdsandbeyond.com

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