A San Diegan, Cliff Robertson, won an Oscar for the movie Charly in the late ‘60s. That movie was based on the great short-story Flowers for Algernon. If memory serves, that story had scientists experiment with drugs on mice, and found they got smarter. They tested this on a mentally disabled patient, and he became a genius. He started drawing, writing poetry, and the nurse that cared for him became his lover. When the mice started to revert back to their old ways (I guess dumb mice can’t find the cheese at the end of the maze), they also died. And it was heartbreaking to watch that happening to this man who was really loving life.
Limitless is the updated version of that story, and for the most part, it works.
Bradley Cooper, who helped finance the film, plays a writer that has a mix of writers block and laziness. He’d rather get drunk and toss a basketball around than actually put pen to paper (or fingers to computer keyboard now days).
I just couldn’t figure out how he got a two-book deal if he didn’t already have a novel of some kind written.
When he runs into an ex brother-in-law who used to deal drugs, he finds out, well…he still deals drugs. The pills he deals enable you to use 100% of your brain (just think of the commercial possibilities of the FDA approved it: this is your brain; this is your brain on the smart pill…)
A lot of the things Cooper did when he got smart were interesting. He immediately cleaned up his apartment. Of course, he starts writing and comes up with amazing stories. The attractive wife of his landlord, who hates him, is impressed by his knowledge of the law (all from memories he can now recall), and she ends up in bed with him. Not sure if that got him a break on the rent, but you realize that probably won’t matter, as he’ll put his brain to useful ways of making cash (and of course, seducing even more women).
Part of the problem with us watching these various things, is we can’t help but think of other films. When he’s playing cards, we think Rainman. When he learns languages, piano, and quotes Shakespeare to women at parties – we think Groundhog Day. When bullets hit a piano (and make an interesting sound), I though of the wonderful visuals of bullets hitting spilled paint in Bound.
They make it interesting enough that you don’t care, even with a few scenes that are cheesy. That would include a graphic that shows letters falling from the ceiling as he writes, or tiles becoming various numbers when he dabbles in the stock market. Those things might’ve worked in A Beautiful Mind, but they’re silly in this.
There are some very interesting shots where a camera will go down 12 different blocks in New York. Those were like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and it worked well when we see this drug taking hold of this guy.
I was a little foggy on exactly how the smart pill was working. For example, we know it works for 24 hours, but when it wears off – and he’s in a meeting with high-powered broker Robert De Niro – he realizes he’s going to be in over his head if he doesn’t take another pill. So, does that mean he forgets everything he learned while on the pill? Would he no longer be able to speak Italian? Wouldn’t he have retained some of the knowledge, or enough to at least BS his way through a quick meeting?
I don’t want to tell you many more of the scenes, because that would give a lot away. There’s one with a scientist that’s very, very interesting and answered a big question I had in the first half of the movie.
There was one path Cooper was going down that he didn’t see coming, and I did. I wondered why, if he’s taking those smart pills, he didn’t see something so glaringly obvious.
The movie also throws a few moral questions out there, and you get some interesting people on the smart pill that, just like dumb people that pop pills, start to act like drug addicts.
The up-tempo techno music, which I didn’t think worked well in 127 Hours, works wonderfully in this. And I always like when a movie uses Black Keys tunes.
And as lukewarm as I was during half of the movie, the last 15 minutes were very satisfying and make me recommend it.
It gets a B-.