Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro
Canadian Rating: 14A
I am not sure how to review this movie.
I guess if I were to imitate a “professional movie critic,” I would start with a quick note about my overall impression, then discuss the goods and bads, then conclude with a broader explanation of how the movie made me feel.
This is how my review is going to go down:
1. What I Was Expecting
2. The Harsh Reality
3. Overall Thoughts
4. Tell you that you probably don’t need to see it
What I was Expecting
When I saw the trailer for Limitless, I thought, “I may be predicting this movie up the waznoz, but it does look entertaining!”
I was thinking it would be your basic Rise & Fall Superpower story. What do I mean by this?
I mean the Main character has a problem, acquires a super power, uses super power to solve problem, doesn’t stop using super power, uses super power in every possible situation until main character goes too far and hurts someone they love AND/OR they lose superpower at most inopportune moment and have to confess everything, usually at a posh gathering.
Predictability is not always a problem for me. In fact I might even be a bit obsessed with what I think is the proper way to tell a story. I’ll say, “movies are supposed to be this, then this, THEN this.” So this movie was going to fit nicely into that comfort zone.
Brilliance. Wealth. Power. Gambling. Sex. Murder. The teaser promised me all these things! Never a dull moment when you have a super power!
The Harsh Reality
This movie is basically about a writer named Eddie (Bradley Cooper) who has depression and doesn’t get anything done. Instead of going to the doctor for medication, he takes a pill from his extremely shady ex-bro-in-law. (The pill is called NZT and it’s supposed to allow you to use 100% of your brain.)
AND IT WORKS REALLY WELL.
LIKE, REALLY WELL.
Now he can finally focus on his novel! Then he cleans his apartment and combs his hair.
Then he invests in the stock market for the next two hours. No joke! I actually got bored. And the last time I was bored in a movie was when I saw My Fair Lady.
I told myself something is going to happen soon other than numbers and business and partners and accounting.
There were brief scenes where he did the gambling and the partying, but those scenes were the same length as the quick shots in the trailers.
I actually would have been ok with all this false advertising because a good movie about business and finances is fine with me. As long as it’s well made, right? But here is why I had a tough time with Limitless: When he gets to that crucial part of the Rise & Fall Superpower movie and he runs out of the medication at the most inopportune moment. BAM! We are back in business. Right?
BECAUSE HE KEEPS FINDING MORE STASHES. He remembers, “oh I hid some at my girlfriend’s place!” “oh there could be one left in a container somewhere!” “oh I’ll just pay a guy 2 million dollars to make more!”
(Warning: this short paragraph contains a spoiler) So I was watching a guy succeed and succeed and succeed, and at the end he develops a version of the pill with zero side effects that he can take forever. And there was barely any partying!
The whole point of Rise & Fall Superpower movies is that you learn a harsh lesson about cheating. You can’t cheat at life. You need to do things the hard way and the right away. If you’re not struggling to overcome your imperfections, you are not doing anything impressive or worthy of documentation. That’s why this kind of movie needs that predictability, because in our own lives we recognize the consequences of cutting corners.
We know that medications have side effects (which Limitless did try to deal with, but then swept it under the rug because it was putting a damper on Eddie’s hot streak). We know that when we tell lies that they come back to bite us. We know that things come out in the wash.
The premise was excellent and it came with countless opportunities to reach us, but relating to Eddie’s situation was just impossible. I identified with him at the beginning. Procrastinating on writing? That’s my bread and butter! So what was missing? The fact that he had something that any audience member of this film would love to have, and he didn’t really do anything with it that people would actually do.
The movie is not a happy-go-lucky romp by any means. Thugs were tracking him down and trying to kill him for the NZT, and that made up most of the conflict in the film.
My opinion: get rid of the dumb tuff guys, and focus on Eddie. Make it an inner struggle. Make him his own worst enemy. This movie was supposed to be about the human mind, so as Larry King would say, “Expand on that.” I wish I could have gotten to know the real Eddie better. I really liked how they did his character at the beginning.
I will say this, I did appreciate the helpful narration.
ARGH, no I didn’t. It was so unnecessary. And Bradley was trying painfully hard to sound like Edward Norton in Fight Club. The movie actually started out looking like a poor man’s Fight Club, using the same type of graphics to describe his mind and apartment.
Then they ditched that angle after about 15 minutes, when they realized they didn’t actually have to make graphics for this movie.
Tell You That You Don’t Need To See It
Eddie’s personality off-drugs, which was realistic and down to earth, was the only thing I really liked about the film.
I wish I could say more good things about the movie. I almost said “The soundtrack was solid.” But I left it out because it sounded like I was trying too hard to be balanced. And there is no way I am going to balance out this review.
I’m not mad, just disappointed.