Limitless: A movie where some things happen
My last few posts for The Idler’s “In The Queue” column were enjoyable to write but a bit heady. I don’t really want to carve out the brainspace for a post that requires thinking. So instead of packing or cleaning or any of the other things I should do before I fly for the holidays I’m going to sit and watch the most enjoyably mediocre movie I can find and liveblog my watching of it.
I know as much about Limitless (2011) as Phyllis from The Office does. “Isn’t that the one where the guy becomes limitless?” Sounds about right. Netflix predicts I’ll like it exactly 3 out of 5 stars which sounds perfectly mediocre to me.
From the description it seems sorta sci-fi. I always think that’ll be good but Hollywood usually has a way of mutilating anything remotely good into a pile of unwatchable mush (see: I dunno, I don’t really feel like thinking of examples right now).
Even seeing that Bradley Cooper stars doesn’t do much for me. I mean he’s like Double Stuff Oreos, I like them but I don’t want to marry them. Ewan McGregor would be coffee ice cream in this metaphor. I don’t feel like doing a deep think on what this metaphor actually means but you can probably draw some conclusions. Or not.
So we have a sorta sci-fi movie and a sorta attractive actor. Let’s start. Well. Let’s start after I eat some pizza.
Okay, now let’s start.
These title cards are the definition of mediocre. This bodes well. White text in an ever-so-slightly grungy font on a black background. Thud, name, increase in size. Rinse and repeat.
Movie opens on Bradley Cooper character’s voice-over with some empty rooms and some dead guys. Supposedly sexy music, supposedly sexy outside shot of a building. Supposedly sexy Bradley Cooper teetering on the edge of said building.
“I’d come close to having an impact on the world now the only thing I’d have an impact on was the sidewalk.” Life! It’s so hard for you, Bradley Cooper character! I hope we can flash back to find out how you metaphorically and literally rose to such heights only now to be on the precipice of destruction. I did say literally, right? Since for this whole scene he’s been standing on the wall of his penthouse patio contemplating jumping.
My sarcastic wish came true! We’re flashing back.
“You see that guy? That was me not so long ago. What kind of guy without a drug or alcohol problem looks this way? Only a writer.” Or a hobo. or a college professor. Or anyone who’s afraid of barbers.
Ooh, writers writing about writers. Yay. But I guess I’m a writer writing about a writer writing about a writer writing. Who’s doing the shitty voiceover now, Sarah?
Okay, no wait, I should try not to hate this. This is supposed to be the mediocre movie I turn my brain off for. Because a movie explicitly about turning your brain on is the perfect time for that. Oops, I just feel asleep. Wish this were hilarious internet sarcasm, instead it’s just hilarious Sarah narcolepsy. Pushing ahead.
“Home. But it couldn’t be my home could it? Who would live like this?” Okay I like that line, emphasizes the before/after personality this movie is pushing.
“That doesn’t sounds very FDA approved.” Really, this unlabelled drug that you never seriously questioned and just popped without knowing what it is: Did you think this was something on the shelf you just didn’t know about?
“I’m gonna stuff these drugs down my pants then open the door for the cops. I am Bradley Cooper. This is my excellent plan.” I’m trying my hand at voiceover for this movie. What do you think? Yeah it’s not very good. Maybe I should pop some of that limitless drug and try agian.
Ah ha, he finally popped a pill. Oh thank god, he immediately went to get a haircut. Bradley Cooper is already not my cup of tea but he’s particularly unattractive in hobo chic. But really, he’s like that teen movie girl who took off her glasses and was suddenly pretty. You learned how to use a comb. You’re so irresistible now, Bradley Cooper!
“I suddenly knew everything about everything.” I want to know everything about everything! This movie speaks so directly to people like me (everybody) and the stuff I like (everything).
“I’m Bradley Cooper driving a car really fast. Now I’m Bradley Cooper jumping off a cliff. I’m so limitless!” I think my voiceover attempts are getting better, you guys.
“Next day, $7500. Too slow.” Bradley Cooper’s money is not limitless!
“Time somebody shook up the free world and got things done.” What a grandiose voiceover statement. I see why they pay screenwriter-whose-name-I’m-not-going-to-bother-looking-up the big bucks. This is such an innocuous statement. In no way could this be setting things up for a downfall.
“Suddenly there was another skip. How had I gone the last 20 blocks?” Oh no, it’s a downfall!
“A fight? I don’t know how to fight. Or do I?” Wow, first legit good scene of the movie. Bradley Cooper character has flashbacks to half-remembered fight moves he saw on TV while he’s fighting this gang of randoms on a subway platform. Can the whole movie be this, please? Make it all Memento meets Crank. I would watch the shit out of that movie.
So now he’s not taking NZT because he ran out or because he’s scared he lost the last 18 hours of his life? I might be more easily drawn into these scenes if I knew his motivation. Maybe.
“Was it possible? Could I have killed someone? Was it even me?” Good questions, ham-fisted voiceover! Will you answer these with ham-fisted answers later on? (Spoiler: Not really. Like everything in this movie it’s a plot device.)
Why does everyone call Bradley Cooper’s character on his landline? When was this script written? Am I really supposed to believe his landline is bugged but his cell is not?
INTERLUDE: How did Bradley Cooper win sexiest man alive? He’s so boring looking. This movie hasn’t cut away from a close shot of his face for more than 4 seconds at a time. I’m so tired of your face Bradley Cooper. At least do some sort of Fear Factor, Blair Witch sort of perspective cop out if I’m going to have to keep looking at this same shot of your face for 2 hours.
Oh no, ex-wife took some limitless and now she’s all fucked up. What a downer Bradley Cooper character had to visit her the one day he was off the drugs. What a grey pair they make. This is that point in the movie when I’m supposed to feel sad right? I hope they hand out autistic emotion cards at screenings so us plebeians not on NZT limitless drug can express exactly how we feel about this movie.
Oh good, mafia guy is back. Why the hell did Bradley Cooper not pay him back when he was all high on limitless and shit? That seems like a serious oversight for a guy who’s taking drugs that allow him to use 100% of his brain. I can be hungover, busy, sleepy, whatever and I still remember to pay my rent. Why can’t Bradley Cooper character have remembered to take out some of his $22 million to pay off the guy who threatened to cut him through at the waist. Oh now the mafia guy shook him down and found the NZT pill and popped it. That pill doesn’t even look like drugs. It’s clear. It looks like one of those sticky rubber stoppers you’d put on a kitchen drawer to keep it from slamming when you closed it. I wonder how many rubber stoppers this mafia guy has swallowed in his life hoping they were drugs.
“It was supposed to be legal.” What? No it wasn’t. It never was. Why do you keep saying that, Bradley Cooper character? You never had any illusions that it was.
And now the guy that was chasing Bradley Cooper character is now chasing Bradley Cooper character’s girlfriend. Run BCCG, run! Wow, gilfriend’s got legs. But, no, she’s trapped. Trapped behind a rock with only 8 or 9 different places to escape to. Or not move. That’s an option that seems to be working for you. If the killer hasn’t found you yet running shouldn’t be your priority. “You’ll think your way out.” That’s not a particularly convincing argument to start taking drugs. Especially drugs that Bradley Cooper character’s girlfriend just saw are killing Bradley Cooper’s character. No girl, don’t listen to him. Oh, but you do. Wait, that’s the spectacular plan that you thought of with your big limitless brain? Hit this guy in the face with some ice skating kid? Totally logical.
Now it’s the next morning and she regrets what she did. Women, amiright? One minute they’re all “yes I’ll begrudgingly take these drugs that’ll save my life” and the next minute they’re all “I totally begrudge these drugs that saved my life.”
Merger montage. Boring. Time to pause and read some Twitter. Also boring. Back to boring part of movie.
“You’re careless with those powers.” So insightful, Robert De Niro character. I’m sure Bradley Cooper character is totally going to take that advice to heart.
20 minutes from the end of the movie and we’ve wrapped back around to the opening. Gonna slap a button on this and let him kill himself maybe?
“The last of it was in this mug’s bloodstream.” We’ve all been there. Rock bottom. Drinking a guy’s blood off the floor. This movie is finally starting to get real.
“And it was all still possible.” What? Bradley Cooper character is the front runner for Senate? Ugh, does this movie have a happy ending?
So Robert De Niro has bought the company that makes NZT. Why did Bradley Cooper character all hopped up on the drug not think to do that first? But if he can’t even remember to pay off the mafia guy, what can you expect.
“That van is gonna rear end that taxi.” Fuck you. Fuck you movie. You just turned the anti-hero into a Matrix-like demigod? I figured a Hollywood happy ending would be unavoidable but this pisses me off. Also: why was Bradley Cooper character the first one to think to do this? Because he had such a huge supply?
Moral of the story: have an unlimited supply of drugs and everything will turn out awesome.
Final thoughts? This was exactly as mediocre as I expected/hoped it’d be. If I were rewriting it, for starters, it’d star Ewan McGregor. Though that’s sort of a non-thinking cop out since I mentioned him at the start. But hey. He’s DREAMY and he could play ANYTHING and also SHUT UP. Also I’d take out anything where people use landlines. This is 2011, that 2002 shit don’t fly. Then I’d go full Memento/Crank and make him a hopped up memory-fragmented junkie who has to keep moving or he’ll die. Or make it a story that has consequences: he dies strung out on the drug but maybe has a last moment of redemption. Something that isn’t this please-everybody Hollywood schlock. But that’s probably too much to ask.
Conclusion? Limitless would be a worthwhile way to kill two hours of your brain-dead, non-limitless life if I didn’t just shit all over it and ruin the ending. Happy Netflixing.
Sarah Pavis is an engineer, writer, and Netflix obsessive. She writes “In the Queue” for The Idler.