Movie Review : Limitless (2011)
The people of my age are obsessed with the idea of "living up to their potential". Every single one of them are convinced they can accomplish something great. Something that will give them creative fulfillment and the admiration of others. That idea is both why the movie Litmitless, starring Bradley Cooper, was made and why it was any successful. But is the movie any good or is it just pandering to our inflated sense of self-worth?
I've watched the damn thing and it did give me a clear answer. There will be spoilers of the movie, so if you haven't watched it in seven years and it was magically not spoiled for you, congratulations. But don't read this.
Limitless is the story of a writer named Edward (Bradley Cooper) who's desperate to meet his engagement with his publisher. He was contracted to write a science fiction novel which he can't even seem to start. * Everything changes one day, when he meets his ex brother-in-law Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), who seems to be doing fucking great. They have lunch together and Vernon slips him a new designer drug that's been the secret of his success...dun dun DUUUUUN....a pill that makes you super intelligent, capable to learn fast and to organize your knowledge in your mind at all time, like you were Google or something.
So, Limitless is a shtick movie. It's trying to answer the century old question your friend who's too enthusiastically into intellectual pursuit is always asking people when he's drunk: if you had a pill that made you infinitely intelligent, would you take it and what would you do with your life if you did? Limitless is full of seducing options to that bar riddle: writing a zeitgeist defining novel, seducing beautiful women, becoming rich and somehow it ignores securing a lifetime supply of the pills and eradicating any dangerous side effect for the health until the very end? If Bradley Cooper got incredibly sick and suffered debilitating withdrawal for two hours, does it mean he was incredibly stupid to begin with?
To be honest, Limitless is interesting despite being a little clueless and creating artificial drama around its premise because it explores an interesting question: can you successfully and responsibly handle becoming special without earning it first? It portrays Bradley Cooper as an intellectual tourist, merely trying out the newfound capacities of his own mind and getting himself in trouble, because he keeps putting himself in position where he needs his smart guy drug and has to stumble all over town like a junkie to find it.
My problem is that Limitless' answer to its own riddle is ultimately yes. You can totally become a super genius without suffering drawbacks, therefore contradicting their whole argument and rendering the whole experience useless.
Limitless was based on a novel by Irish author Alan Glynn, which I dare to believe has a little more depth than this fucking movie. Because I love the premise and Limitless screenwriter Leslie Dixon and director Neil Burger don't seem to know what to do with it. It's a series of satisfying scenes about a man exploring the powers of his own mind, intercut with scenes where it's a junkie. That's one of the pitfalls when you write about super intelligent people. It's easy to point out logical fallacies that super intelligent people arguably wouldn't make and Limitless is full of these. It's a hollow and gimmicky movie, but it's worth watching for the discussion anyway. It raises a couple points about us millenials that we overlook too often.
* Shit, I can relate to that.