'Maxxx' Review: OT Fagbenle as middle-aged popstar trying to rebound is hilarious, heartbreaking at same time
Spoilers for ‘Maxxx’
There is something incredibly, unbearably sad about Maxxx, a former boy-band popstar who is as nobody as anyone can be at present. The bumbling eponymous hero, played by O. T. Fagbenle, of the six-part All3Media series that’s out on Hulu, is in many ways like another fictional washed-up celebrity the world has come to love and dislike simultaneously -- BoJack Horseman. But while the similarities exist, to make a case for comparison by listing out what the two characters share would be to ignore the brilliance of ‘Maxxx’.
So, what makes Maxxx, both the show and the protagonist so great? For one, it is his utter lack of shame, self-awareness, and tact. Maxxx has seen better days. But even when his celebrity’s light is dimming out, his unearned confidence knows no bounds. He spits pseudo-philosophical one-liners at the drop of a hat in order to sound deep and wise. He upstages a grieving mother at the funeral of his former bandmate Lucky (Javone Prince) and begins singing -- and badly so -- in order to get the hype up about his possible comeback. He hits on women at a group therapy session for sex-addiction. Watching Maxxx go on about his life is like watching car crash footage. It’s painful and you want to look away but you can’t.
At the same time, Maxxx is extremely vulnerable to what other people think about him. He has tonnes of insecurities and very often, his bravado is barely able to keep a lid on the vast amounts of hurt and sadness he has inside him, and they well up. The reason why Maxxx wants to make a comeback is also equal parts pathetic and sad and unbelievably stupid. He wants to win back his former girlfriend Jourdan (Jourdan Dunn), a famous supermodel. The stupid bit is easy to understand because they dated years ago and what he hopes to achieve with his antics looks set-up for failure at the get-go.
It’s pathetic because his self-worth is attached to her for some reason and he keeps making a fool of himself over and over again. But where it gets sad is how it is revealed as the show progresses that most of what he built up in his mind about his relationship with Jourdan bears little resemblance to reality. In the final episode, she tells him that they dated for only three months and she barely remembers any of it. Quite unlike how he remembers it -- in excruciatingly painful detail.
Maxxx is a complicated man. He has talent but he prefers to look like a jackass. He has emotions, but he prefers to appear uncaring. When Tamzin (Pippa Bennett-Warner), his manager, reveals to him that it was she who changed the tracks on the stage -- leading his spirit to be crushed -- he acts coolly. He looks hurt, but he pretends it doesn’t matter. When Jourdan crushes him with her indifference, he takes it in his stride and walks out proudly. Even though it's plainly visible just how hurt he is. And mostly, it seems like he puts up this brave face for himself. He knows that once the floodgates open, he wouldn’t remain functional. So, he prefers to walk and smile things off.
O. T. Fagbenle’s performance is class apart. It’s often hard to believe he’s acting a fictional character and it’s not a real person who is just like that. So absurdly human that it’s funny, relatable, and heartbreaking at the same time.
‘Maxxx’, in six 20-something-minute episodes, tells a good story. It shows us what human beings are capable of withstanding. It shows us how some spirits remain unbreakable. And it shows us that despite how seemingly shallow one seems, they’re capable of hurt and vulnerability all the same.
‘Maxxx’ is available for viewing only on Hulu.