In Netflix's trippy new miniseries, Maniac, Emma Stone plays Annie Landsberg, a woman who partakes in a mysterious pharmaceutical trial with unanticipated side effects. The trailers for the show suggest a palpable sci-fi/fantasy vibe that certainly seems to be out of this world, but also grounded in the realities of human struggle, all of which may make it difficult to tell if Annie from Maniac is based on a real person. So what's the deal?
All signs point to the show's characters and plot points being purely fiction. According to the UK's Independent, the character of Annie doesn't even exist in the Norwegian version of Maniac, on which Netflix's take is based. She was created specifically with Stone in mind. "She was one of those people I always wanted to work with,” showrunner Cary Fukunaga told the outlet. "And that’s not really a long list of people. When Michael Sugar, the producer, asked me who I wanted [to cast], the first person out of my mouth was Emma."
But while it definitely doesn't appear that Annie is modeled after one particular person, viewers should still be able to connect with her story.
According to Netflix's description of Annie's character, she is a "disaffected and aimless" person "fixated on broken relationships with her mother and her sister" when she joins the trial along with Jonah Hill's Owen, who has "struggled his whole life with a disputed diagnosis of schizophrenia." The two enter into the trial, helmed by Dr. Mantleray (Justin Theroux), on the promise that it will act as a magic cure for all their issues. From there, they are thrust headfirst into intense, whirlwind, computer-generated realities, in which they play a different part each time.
In an interview with Jennifer Lawrence for Elle, Stone said the show appealed to her because, while it does go to some out-there places, it's driven by human emotion. "The thing I liked about Maniac was that it’s about people who have their own internal struggles and are trying to fix them with a pill," she said. "But you see over the course of the show that human connection and love is really the only thing that gets us through life. I liked that idea, and I love Jonah."
Early reviews have lauded where Stone takes her character throughout Maniac's admittedly bizarre dimensions and twists. Alan Sepinwall wrote for Rolling Stone that she's "unsurprisingly game for each new turn, and each new genre she has to embody," adding that "she has the more satisfying emotional arc of the two leads, and makes the most of it."
Vulture's Jen Chaney offered similar praise for Stone, writing in her review that "Stone has no trouble at all dancing between the heartbreak of Annie’s confrontations with [her sister], the ludicrousness of becoming an elf in a pseudo-Shire embedded in her subconscious... or a sexy assassin with a southern accent who knows her way around a firearm."
Maniac sounds like a whole lot to take in, and it probably is. But the warm reception it's received so far, paired with the fact that viewers have become endeared to Hill and Stone in tons of their roles over the years, suggest this is likely to be a thrilling story for the books.