Review by Sean Boelman
The sci-fi romantic comedy series Made for Love is weird and ambitious, and the result is entertaining if a bit puzzling. Great performances by Cristin Milioti and Billy Magnussen and lots of uncomfortable laughter make this something to watch even when all of the jokes don’t quite land.
Based on a novel by Alissa Nutting, the series follows a woman who escapes from a suffocating marriage to a tech mogul only to discover that he has implanted a new tracking and surveillance device in her brain. It’s a crazy, high-concept sci-fi premise that is used effectively to create some interesting satire.
What will likely put some audiences off is the fact that the series struggles to find a balance between its thriller and comedy elements. At times, it’s meant to be taken seriously as it follows this woman on the run from an abusive husband, but then it turns into an absurd comedy with jokes about a middle-aged man in a relationship with a sex doll. These tonal shifts are jarring but mostly even themselves out after the first couple episodes.
There are some interesting themes presented in the series about gaslighting and domestic abuse, but the way in which it is handled isn’t always the most sensitive. One of the biggest problems with the series is that it almost humanizes the abuser, because even though his crazed mentality is evident, his actions are also presented as an act of overzealous love. Perhaps this is resolved in the remainder of the season.
The arcs of the characters are also somewhat disappointing. For much of these first episodes, the protagonist is defined through her experience of being a victim, with little other development coming in until the fourth entry. And her father serves as little more than a butt of repeated (and frequently unfunny) jokes.
Milioti’s performance is great, leaning on her delivery of darkly comedic quips. Magnussen has found a nice little type as the crazed but oddly charming psycho, having a lot of the funniest moments in the series. Ray Romano also has a supporting role, and while he has played the loser character more than once, he isn’t fully utilized here.
For a sci-fi comedy series, there’s still a lot of room for this to grow. It’s clear that this is meant to be a near future with technology that is exaggerated but not too out there, but the audience probably won’t be fully immersed in this world. Instead, canny viewers will likely be trying to figure out who inspired the (seemingly) composite character antagonist.
Made for Love is an entertaining series, and it will be interesting to see where it goes for the remaining six episodes. Not all of the jokes land, but those that do get some solid laughs thanks to the two talented leads.
Made for Love is screening as a part of the online edition of the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, which runs March 16-20, 2021. Four out of ten episodes reviewed.