Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Flowers For Algernon Modernized Is Limitless!

The Good: Engaging plot development, Interesting characters, Decent performances, Decent use of voiceovers, Good direction
The Bad: Narrative structure makes it predictable.
The Basics: Limitless holds up as a clever and engaging thriller that develops from a meandering character study into a taut business drama.

There are very few movies that I know about that come out theatrically and I do not end up seeing. In fact, one of the only ones that comes instantly to my mind is Limitless. So, while my wife was sleeping the other day, I decided it was time to rectify that oversight. Much more than a modern rehash of Flowers For Algernon, Limitless is a smart and interesting drama that actually evolves.

Limitless is a good example of a movie that evolves well, despite the fact that the end it foreshadowed in its opening. Going from something that felt remarkably like The Words (reviewed here!) into a film with more in common to Wall Street (reviewed here!), Limitless tells an engaging story that is a more complex version of Flowers For Algernon, updated for today.

Leading up to his suicide, Eddie Morra’s life changes dramatically from loser to successful writer. A chance meeting with his ex-brother-in-law Vernon, gets Eddie access to an experimental pill that is supposed to allow him to use the full potential of his brain. Returning to his crappy apartment after taking the pill, he encounters the landlord’s wife, Valerie, and through observation and half-remembered experiences, he suddenly impresses her and helps her write a law paper. After a night where Eddie experiences a surge of brilliance and writes the beginning to his novel, he falls asleep and discovers the drug’s effects have worn off. Eddie approaches Vernon for some more NZT48, but Vernon is killed and it is only looting his apartment successfully for the last of the drug (and a pile of cash) that allows Eddie to continue living his enhanced life.

Having a new plan that requires a lot of money, Eddie borrows money from unsavory sources, makes a quick killing on Wall Street and even restores his relationship with Lindy. It is then that the fabulously wealthy Carl Van Loon comes into his life. Eddie wows the businessman by seeing the endgame for Carl’s potential merger. Informed by his ex-wife of the consequences of abruptly stopping the drug, Eddie has to wean himself off the NZT48. By that time, given how many important people he is associated with, Eddie’s desire to taper down comes with disastrous consequences for him and Lindy.

Despite the opening which is reminiscent of The Usual Suspects (reviewed here!), Limitless is a smart film with intimate human drama and widerange conspiracy theory elements. The character of Eddie Morra is a good one. He actually evolves in the film from a writer to a businessman to Senator. This is the birth of a superman with more sophistication than Chronicle (reviewed here!).

Limitless is also a film that does not inspire much in the way of analysis. It is good, it has a sophistication to its development and enough intersecting plotlines to be continually engaging. But the acting is stacked deck casting – Robert De Niro as an older, powerful businessman . . . what a stretch! Bradley Cooper as a young, talented individual operating below his potential who suddenly gets a big break, what a shock! – and the peripheral characters are hardly developed.

Still, Limitless is solid, entertaining, and better than most films I have seen of late, making for a decent viewing experience.

For other films with Robert De Niro, please check out:
Silver Linings Playbook
Hide And Seek
Shark Tale
City By The Sea
The Score
15 Minutes
Meet The Parents
Jackie Brown
The Untouchables
The Mission
The Deer Hunter
The Godfather, Part II


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the film reviews I have written!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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