“Made for Love” is a larger-than-life story of mind control wrapped around a tale of finding and losing love — with a sex doll and dolphins thrown into the chaotic mix.
The HBO Max series, premiering Thursday and based on Alissa Nutting’s 2017 novel of the same name, focuses on Hazel (Cristin Milioti) and Byron (Billy Magnussen) in a non-chronological timeline as they go from blissful to toxic and everything in between.
Tech billionaire Byron has used his genius to get everything he wants: fame, money, perfect cubes of protein that taste like food. Then he decides he wants love.
“There is a huge facade this guy lives behind,” Magnussen, best known for playing Kato Kaelin in “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” told the Daily News.
“The pristine clothes, the pristine life, the ideology of how everything is in its spot, and truthfully, behind it all, is a scared little boy who actually doesn’t even know what love is.”
On the other side is Hazel, who’s plucked off the street and directly into Byron’s well-controlled world.
Milioti tells The News she’s playing two characters.
“This presentable, locked down, cut off from her mind, body and soul Stepford wife and then is literally blasted out of the earth and goes back to where she was with her dad, which is this, like, feral dirt kid who is scrapping and stealing,” the 35-year-old New Jersey native said. “It’s completely the life she tried to leave behind.”
Byron offers Hazel everything she’s looking for: an escape.
On their first date, inside a box on Hazel’s college campus, Byron shows off his tech skills with a dizzying virtual reality that takes her to Paris, Egypt — anywhere she could imagine. He promises to change her world.
But it all goes wrong, driven by Byron’s belief that technology can solve everything — namely a chip implanted in the brains of two people that can bond their thoughts, emotions and goals. Though the chip has never worked before — including on a dolphin swimming around in Byron’s pool — it doesn’t stop him.
“She’s given what women are conditioned to believe in. He comes in and is, like, ‘I’m going to give you the solution to everything right now. The agreement is that you have to say goodbye to your dad and come with me.’ It’s literally ‘The Little Mermaid.’ Other than I didn’t have a tail and grew legs, it’s very similar. He gave her an offer she can’t refuse,” Milioti said.
“He’s in love with the idea of her and she’s in love with the idea of escaping who she is.”
“Made for Love” ends the suspense almost immediately when Hazel escapes, but it doesn’t stop the chaos. That consists of everything from her dad’s (Ray Romano) sex doll to Byron’s evil, or maybe just clueless, henchmen (Noma Dumezweni and Dan Bakkedahl) to a digital tracking service to rate Hazel’s orgasms.
“It’s all these real, grounded things in this heightened world and the sci-fi of it all is a sneaky back way in to be, like, ‘Surprise, this is your life too!’” Milioti told The News.
“It opens different parts of our consciousness up to these things that are grounded in the human experience, no matter how much tech, no matter how much wildness you put onto it. No matter how many dolphins.”