“Limitless” is the kind of adult film that gets audiences rooting for a guy who takes drugs. Only this isn’t just your run-of-the-mill narcotic, this is the magic pill that will make you super-alert, super-smart, and well, maybe more than a little hyper.
Bradley Cooper plays Eddie Morra, a New York City writer who has had the misfortune of enjoying a little success, and therefore received an advance on his next work. He’s been mired in the doldrums ever since. He can’t get started. His life begins to resemble the shambles of his little apartment. He’s grown his hair long, and ties it in a ponytail. He wears a shaggy beard, and dresses like he just rolled off the couch, which he probably did. He finds himself in dark bars in the middle of a sunny afternoon, trying to get his courage up to go back and actually put words on paper. His long-suffering girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), has finally had enough. She has a real job, ironically, as a book editor, and she needs to get on with her life, and so she summarily resigns from being his girlfriend, his banker, his cook, his appointment secretary, his friend with benefits, and his frustrated muse. The signal event is returning the key to his apartment.
Now Eddie is really lost. Literally wandering around the streets, he happens to run into an old acquaintance, his ex-brother-in-law, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), who Eddie remembers as a drug dealer, but he’s so desperate for companionship that he accepts the offer of a drink, and that’s when he’s introduced to the magic pill. Vernon assures him that it’s safe, and gives him a free sample, assuring him he’ll be back for more, and mooring-less Eddie sees no reason not to try it. The experience blows him away. All his senses are heightened, his awareness is suddenly tingling with sensory input, his brain seems to be functioning at hyperspeed, and he can now remember everything. It’s incredible. He finishes his novel at a feverish pitch, flabbergasting his editor. But he thinks he’s tapped into something greater than just being able to write. It’s like he’s transformed into the smartest man on the planet, and he loves how that feels.
He cleans his apartment and cuts his hair and buys new clothes. He re-connects with Vernon , who is now looking beat-up and desperate, and soon Eddie realizes that there are other people after these “magic pills,” too, just like he is. And they’ll literally do anything to get their hands on them. But Eddie’s now three steps ahead of them---and everybody else, too. He connects with a broker friend, and immediately makes money on the stock market, because he can process more information more quickly than anyone else. In turn, he’s introduced to a powerful financier, Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro), and begins to advise him, much to the consternation of those who are already employed by him to do just that.
Events continue to speed up for Eddie---he re-connects to his girlfriend, he starts getting noticed publicly which evolves into people thinking of him politically----he’s got the looks, the smarts, and the single-mindedness to succeed in that cutthroat world, also—but in the meantime he’s still trying to dodge some thugs who are literally trying to cut his throat. He doesn’t even know himself what he’s capable of, but he’s more excited about that than he is concerned for any banal bourgeoisies’ morality.
So why do we want to root for him? Maybe because we like seeing a mess-up get his act together. Maybe because we all wish we could be smarter than we can even imagine. Maybe because his trusting, long-suffering, ex-girlfriend deserves the kind of guy who will bedazzle her into re-connecting with him. And maybe because Bradley Cooper plays this role just right: with the winning mix of everyman and wannabe that taps into something more important than worrying about what’s in a magic pill.
And has anybody considered that the Christian hope of the resurrection state would be much like taking the magic pill that would last forever?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor, United Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas