Review: In ‘Made for Love,’ She Can’t Get Him Out of Her Head
In this techno-satire, a woman tagged with a chip by her mogul husband tries to break the (block)chains of love.
In “Made for Love,” a light-handed and dark-minded comedy of technology, control and gaslighting whose first three episodes arrive Thursday on HBO Max, the snare is all in her head.
As in physically. As in implanted. As in a microchip.
Hazel Green (Milioti) received this unwanted hardware upgrade from her husband, Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen), who runs a world-dominating tech company. (Feel free to play around with the first vowel sound in “Gogol.”) For 10 years, they’ve lived in a gilded cage — or rather a gilded cube, a virtual-reality environment called the Hub, secluded from the messy outside world, with eternally perfect weather and a dolphin sporting in the swimming pool.
And for 10 years, Byron has grown more devoted. Too devoted. “Have your wife review her biometrically recorded orgasms to better optimize them” devoted. Finally, he decides that he loves her — and his technology — so deeply that he and she will become “Users One” of his new product, Made for Love, which makes couples into two-person neural networks, their brains digitally connected. No more secrets, no more miscommunication, no more private thoughts.
Who the hell would want that? you might ask, a question “Made for Love” raises but doesn’t entirely answer. For the purposes of the story, what’s important is that Byron wants it and Hazel emphatically does not. This impels her to fly the cube, a madcap and violent escape with Byron watching from behind her eyeballs. (Turns out he implanted only her chip, not his: “I had to read your diary first to know if I could let you read mine.”)
The metaphors are never far under the surface here, like Byron and Hazel’s double-finger wedding bands, reminiscent of tiny handcuffs. And when Hazel seeks help from her widowed father, Herb (Ray Romano), she finds him having taken up a committed partnership with a sex doll — sorry, “synthetic partner” — named Diane. Their one-way relationship is an echo of what Byron is trying to make Hazel into, a wife machine, but it’s also oddly tender and respectful.
“Made for Love” is hardly subtle, and its cautionary tech tale has been told repeatedly in “Black Mirror” and elsewhere. But it’s playful and funny and almost momentum-driven enough to get away with hand-waving away its many implausibilities. Among those is the question of why Hazel, presented as a wily, resourceful skeptic, would have been swept off her feet by Byron, who from their first meeting throws up enough red flags for a giant slalom course.
Romano, meanwhile, may be one of the few actors you could introduce in bed with a humanoid sex toy, whom he dresses in his dead wife’s clothing, yet have your viewer think, “You know, this seems like a complicated guy who’s been through a few rough patches.”
He’s also pitiable, insofar as a billionaire with godlike powers can be. “I am the only person who actually loves you!” he pleads to Hazel. “Objectively!”
But it’s Milioti who gives the season’s first half (I’ve seen four episodes of eight) its adrenaline. “Made for Love” is a loopy jolt to the cortex that demands a high tolerance for absurdity. What grounds it is Hazel’s journey from kept woman to action hero, determined not to be a character in somebody else’s love story.
Source: New York Times