Bradley Cooper plays a slacker writer with a crappy apartment, an ex-wife and soon-to-be ex-girlfriend. His life changes when he begins taking a drug that allows him to access the other 80%. Suddenly he can learn languages in hours and can retrieve everything he has ever read, seen or thought about. His intellectual ability is, as the title says, limitless. Also limitless are the people who will do almost anything to lay their hands on the drug.
RC: Mark, I enjoyed the heck out of Limitless despite the fact I’m not exactly sure what message the movie is trying to send. Its first act would make Timothy Leary proud—drugs open up the mind, man—then becomes a Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” drama before winding down to an ambiguous ending. I wasn’t expecting Requiem for a Dream, but I would have liked a clearer point of view. You?
MB: Actually, I appreciated its ambiguous point of view especially since the middle section was a bit preachy. I think the movie was illustrating that whoever goes up must come down—usually with a crashing headache. And that we're all addicted to something. I felt the Bradley Cooper character was as addicted to his success and material comforts as to the drug itself.
RC: Certainly he becomes a kind of yuppified Keith Richards, a chemically enhanced knowledge junkie with a taste for the good life, which I thought that was an interesting take for a drug movie. I’m not sure I could have accepted Cooper in a grittier role. I thought he carried the movie—he’s a good leading man, can do comedy and has the chops to do drama.
MB: I agree, Richard. He's in almost every scene of the movie, and it stands or falls on his abilities. Though I have to give some kudos to the director, Neil Burger, who fills the first half of the movie with appropriate psychedelia. Watching the movie, I sometimes felt like I had taken that drug, or maybe there was just something off in the hot golden topping.
RC: I liked much of the look of the movie, the drug haze scenes are effective and the 18-hour blackout sequence is a kind of a tour de force, complete with Bruce Lee flashbacks, but I thought the attempts to illustrate his newfound intelligence a bit gimmicky. Letters falling from the ceiling while he is furiously writing. Really?
MB: And I've seen that somewhere before, I just can't remember where. Maybe if I were on the drug, I would. Also, in the Sixties there was a movie called Charly about a slow-witted man who becomes a genius after an operation. But it was the Sixties so he doesn't try to corner the stock market. And if I see one more Russian villain, I'm going to organize a lobby on their behalf. No matter. I really liked this one.