The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

On their 32nd attempt they managed to make an end

with 15 comments

I can totally understand why the urban legend that we only use 10 percent of our brain capacity has become so widespread. It’s an attractive idea, isn’t it? Rather than accepting that we’re not quite as intelligent that we wish we were, we can tell ourselves that all we need to do is to make better use of our brain capacity. We’ve all got the potential to become a genius.

The idea pops up every now and then. Sometimes it’s used as a vehicle to sell various new age related products and methods to people who people who are more than willing to pay a fortune to get access to the final 90 percent. It’s also been used in pop culture, most recently in the movie Limitless, where they for some reason have raised the amount that we actually use to 20 percent. (Perhaps it’s supposed to make it sound more believable?)

In the movie we follow the less-than-successful writer Eddie, who one day comes across a drug that will give him access to the missing 80 percent. His sudden genius makes him instantly successful in various areas, but the magical pill also turns out to have some side effects. Besides he’s not the only one who takes an interest in it.

Screenwriter interview
Limitless was better than I thought it would be considering some fairly negative reviews I’ve seen around. It’s a fast paced thriller and it kept me quite entertained all the way through to an end which surprised me a little (not necessarily in a bad way).

If you consider watching it, I’d highly recommend you to listen to Jeff Goldsmith’s interview with the screenwriter Leslie Dixon. One hour long it gives her plenty of time to give a perspective from behind the scenes, surprisingly open and honest. You get to learn a lot about the making of the movie as well as a down-to-Earth image of what screenwriting is like.

Apparently they struggled a lot to come up with a good ending of the story. The way the book it’s based on ended wasn’t satisfying for the movie format, and in the end she rewrote it no less than 32 times. They didn’t just have the test audience reactions to take into account. There was also a complication when Robert De Niro was contracted in the last minute for a minor role. He turned out to have a lot of specific demands, including how the movie would end.

She also talks about her writing process, which sometimes isn’t quite as rigorously planned and outlined as you might think. For example there is one moment in the movie when a character finds herself in a bad spot, trying to hide from an enemy under a few rocks in Central Park. It’s a tough situation and what more: Leslie had no idea of how to get the person out of it until she did some field studies.  So she went to Central Park and hid under the rocks, just like her character, and tried to see the situation through her eyes. And as she looked around, the solution finally came to her

Forgettable but entertaining
It’s easy to sympathize with Leslie, and listening to her definitely made me more positive about the film than I would have been otherwise. I was entertained as long as it lasted but I forgot about it as soon as it was over. Unless someone could bring me one of those magical pills of course. I can’t quite let go of the idea, myth or not. What if…?

Limitless (Neil Burger, US 2011) My rating: 3,5/5

Written by Jessica

October 11, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in Limitless

15 Responses

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  1. It was a reasonable film, which once you accepted the premise was ok – and 3.5 is about what I’d score it too. I liked the fact that the ending was not stock standard, and think that while De Niro might have purchased some cred for the film, his actual performance was one of the worst on screen.
    He was not invested in it, and looked bored at times. They would have been better off with a smaller name doing an average job, so it would have not distracted.


    October 11, 2011 at 1:22 am

    • I agree with all you say. I can’t see the obsession of Big Names. It was clearly wasted in this case, didn’t add anything at all, apart from giving them the headache to adapt the script to serve his wishes.


      October 11, 2011 at 7:44 am

  2. I tried so hard to enjoy this movie, and I was excited to rent it because I thought the premise looked interesting when I saw the trailer in theaters. I actually couldn’t finish it – the husband and I turned it off a little over an hour in – and from reading your post I wonder if that was a mistake. We were so annoyed, however, by things that seemed so obviously problematic. (A genius forgets to pay his loan shark, for example.) We also were a little disappointed in the visual representations of what it feels like to use all of your brain – they felt too expected and not as creative as we’d hoped. Your post makes me think that perhaps listening to the interview and sitting through a full viewing would be worth one more attempt.


    October 11, 2011 at 3:45 am

    • Listen to the interview. She’s really charming and generous. After you’ve watched them movie you should also listen to the “spoiler” part of it where she answers a question about the ending. That part was cut out from the original interview and published six weeks later. Like the original interview you’ll find it at the website of The Q & A.

      I got a little bit bored with how they pictured the enhanced state of mind, doing that zooming and making people go sort of double. It got old after a while. But then I thought to myself: “how should they have done it differently?”. And I realized that it probably isn’t all that easy to come up with something unique and understandable.

      There are a few logical glitches in the plot regarding the nature of this smartness, why he doesn’t figure out a few things etc. But for me that kind of glitches isn’t a killer of a movie. I’m fairly good at suspending my disbelief I figure.


      October 11, 2011 at 7:50 am

  3. I have to say I really love how you manage to write about movies in a way that is not strictly a review but rather taking them as a starting point for discussions about a wide variety of very interesting subjects!


    October 11, 2011 at 10:05 am

    • Thank you! Tbh that’s the only way I really can write about movies. I use them as a jumping point for all sorts of rambling. I don’t really feel knowledgable enough to write proper reviews the way that for instance Surrender to the Void does. I don’t even think of my reviews as “reviews”. In my world they’re reflections.


      October 11, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    • In total agreement with Sofia. Your posts are always so well written. I like the BTS aspect in this one.

      Joel Burman

      October 12, 2011 at 12:27 am

      • Aww, thank you. I really enjoy BTS aspects and would like to write more about it if I only knew more about it. You’ve got a bit of advantage there, I’m afraid. 🙂 But I listen to a lot of podcats and when I hear something interesting at the Q & A show I’m happy to share it.


        October 12, 2011 at 7:06 am

  4. Nicely Done Jessica!!

    I think I came away from LIMITLESS with very much the same opinion. The infinite zoom made me want to throw up after a while!

    Interesting the different film stocks used to show the different states of mind, from slacker to high roller.

    I am sorry if I am not as frequent as normal, I am pretty busy at the moment at LFF 🙂

    Scott Lawlor

    October 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    • Thanks Scott! You’ve got a good reason for slowing down a little on blogging. You’re always welcome to stop buy and have a cup of coffee. And if you feel a bit tired after all your film watching, you don’t need to participate in the conversation. We know you’re still there somewhere, listening.


      October 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm

  5. Given the premises, I thought the movie was too unimaginative most specifically the ending, which I can see why they had issues with it. Overall, it’s entertaining enough but quite forgettable.


    October 12, 2011 at 5:24 am

    • I thought the ending was pretty fine actually. Not quite as predictable as I would have thought. But yes, it is forgettable. I figure it would be a perfect entertainment movie for a flight.


      October 12, 2011 at 7:08 am

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  7. […] Limitless – as entertaining as it was forgettable. I think it got more crap than it deserved. […]

  8. […] If you think that the concept of this type of drug feels very familiar, you may be associating to Limitless from few years ago, which was kind of forgettable but good fun to watch. […]

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