Cristin Milioti as Hazel Green in Made for Love, wearing large sunglasses and a giant white sun hat.

Made for Love Review: Cristin Milioti Is Phenomenal in HBO Max’s New Techno-Dystopic Comedy Series

3.5/5 stars

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Last year, Cristin Milioti starred in Palm Springs, which, being a sort of Groundhog Day specifically tailored for the COVID-19 era, is likely to go down as the quintessential quarantine movie. Now she’s in the HBO Max series Made for Love, which might not prove to have the same impact or lasting power, but has similarly hit at the exact right moment.

Made for Love stars Milioti as Hazel Green, who is on the run from her tech titan husband Byron Gogol (Billy Magnussen). For the last ten years, Green hasn’t stepped outside of their home, dubbed “The Hub”: a sort of virtual-reality-enhanced luxury compound biosphere. It’s an ostensibly perfect life that’s entirely superficial but mostly tolerable–that is, until Hazel finds out Byron has implanted a chip in her brain, allowing him to monitor her every move.

Like Palm Springs, Made For Love—based on Alissa Nutting’s 2017 novel—doesn’t have any direct connections to our current pandemic situation. But like the Hulu film, it hits incredibly close to home. Between Hazel’s emotional claustrophobia and her extremely reluctant decision to move back in with her estranged and uh, let’s just say, eccentric father (Ray Romano)—and his committed girlfriend, a lifelike sex doll named Diane—this is very much a show for our current moment.

That’s not to say that this series doesn’t stand on its own, even without the context of our real-life circumstances. Hazel’s escape narrative has huge caper energy, but Made for Love has mysteries within mysteries, and they unfold in ways that are alternately exciting, astounding, and creepy. Milioti is the clear standout among an already impressive cast. Even when the deliberately scattered storytelling wears a little thin, she holds our attention with no trouble.

Billy Magnussen’s Byron Gogol is also delightfully, terrifyingly unhinged. He claims his microchip invention is designed to “close the gap” and end miscommunications between romantic partners, allowing couples to understand each other on the deepest possible level. In reality, he’s just a powerful and incredibly dangerous narcissist who is furious over his inability to control his wife’s thoughts and feelings.

Based on the four episodes available for review, the series’ biggest downfall is its pacing. The nonlinear structure takes too long to answer some of its most pressing questions, especially the question of why Hazel married Byron in the first place, given that he is as unlikeable as he is rich. Even after that question was answered, I’m still waiting to figure out why she stayed for 10 insufferable years with a man who literally makes her log and rate her orgasms.

Still, the outstanding cast gives us more than enough reason to keep coming back for those answers and makes Made for Love a solid installment in the techno-dystopic rom-com caper genre.

Made for Love premiered at SXSW and will air on HBO Max on April 1.

(image: John P. Johnson / HBO Max)

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