SXSW 2021: ‘Made For Love,’ Episode 1

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Made For Love

Made For Love is an HBO Max Original Series produced by Paramount Television Studios and based on the novel of the same name by Alissa Nutting. Nutting also co-created the television series and co-wrote the pilot with Christina Lee, Dean Bakopoulos, and Patrick Somerville. Set in a not-too-distant future, the series follows Hazel Green (Cristin Miloti) as she attempts to escape the clutches of her tech mogul fiance Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen). Flashbacks reveal the events that led to Hazel’s departure, as Bryon intended to use her as the guinea pig for his “Made for Love” technology-which implants a chip in her head that allows him to view her every move.

Made For Love will draw comparisons to Miloti’s previous film Palm Springs, as well as Black Mirror. (There’s also a touch of Forgetting Sarah Marshall in the mix, only the show is following the dumpee instead of the dumped.) There’s plenty of dark humor sprinkled throughout the pilot: Bryon’s complex holds a dolphin that is confined to a rather tiny pool, Hazel finds refuge in a strip club, and a flashback finds her accidentally drinking her father’s moonshine. Yet, there is also a genuinely terrifying undercurrent with the series’s approach to technology, particularly in how Bryon uses it. Implanting a chip in your fiance’s head to essentially spy on her is the ultimate invasion of privacy, and requiring a performance review of the orgasms you give her is not a sign of a healthy relationship. (Yes, this is a thing that happens, and yes, it’s as creepy as you’d expect.)

Director Stephanie Liang handles the divide between past and present effortlessly, using visual cues to signify Hazel being trapped in an immensely toxic relationship with Bryon and breaking free in the present. Scenes in the past often feature Hazel in the middle of the camera, as if she were locked in a jail cell. A party sequence also feels claustrophobic, especially when Bryon pulls her up on stage and essentially uses her as a prop in his big presentation. By contrast, the sequences in the present feature swaths of desert land and the open road. Even though Hazel is alone in a wide world, she’s finally free.

The secret weapon that keeps this pilot going is Miloti’s performance, which features multiple moments of visual comedy and an underlying sense of dread once she realizes she has a chip in her head. A running gag throughout the episode features Hazel essentially flipping off Bryon, whether it’s his complex or behind his back. Even in the past, the audience will tell from her glassy smile and a blank stare that she’s had enough of this dude. Magnussen is no slouch himself, as he plays “Every Tech Bro You’ve Ever Heard Of” cranked up to 11. Bryon is a character who feels a need to control everything, and his obsession is an underlying presence-from the paperwork he makes Hazel sign to the frequent spying on her after she’s left his house.

Made For Love is a great start to a new sci-fi dramedy, with a solid exploration of how tech and relationships interact and Cristin Miloti utilizing a wonderful sense of comedic and dramatic timing. With the pilot leading to Hazel reuniting with her dad (Ray Romano), the series is off to a great start. Fans of Black Mirror and/or Palm Springs will definitely enjoy this show.

Made For Love will premiere on HBO Max on April 1, 2021.

Made For Love
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Made For Love is a great start to a new sci-fi dramedy, with a solid exploration of how tech and relationships interact and Cristin Miloti utilizing a wonderful sense of comedic and dramatic timing. With the pilot leading to Hazel reuniting with her dad (Ray Romano), the series is off to a great start. Fans of Black Mirror and/or Palm Springs will definitely enjoy this show.