I’m a writer so you’d think I’d love movies about writers. Not the case, and in fact, I hate most movies about writers. There’s a laundry list of dirty films about writers I could rip into, but I want to look at Limitless (2011) in particular and why it’s an irresponsible mess.
Limitless stars Bradley Cooper as the stereotypical writer, or what I guess people think a stereotypical writer looks like. Here’s a picture of Bradley Cooper the writer:
Waxy skin, defeated eyes, allergic to a razor, and all around a pathetic shell of a human being. The film portrays writing as sitting at a computer in pajamas throwing a tennis ball around and basically procrastinating. The myth of writer’s block persists and negative stereotypes of writers abound. The theme of the film basically reinforces negative writing stereotypes and tells the audience that these behaviors are not only okay but that you’ll thrive if you succumb to them.
The writer character takes a pill that allows access to the full “100% of his brain” instead of the normal 20% which is complete and utter bullshit. Of course, in a story rife with urban legends and false stereotypes, the writer needs drugs to succeed. After this struggling writer takes a pill that makes him a super genius, he writes the worlds best novel in a night. His agent leaves a series of messages on his answering machine, asking in disbelief how he achieved this. So not only does Limitless portray the world’s most negatively stereotypical writer, it also portrays the world’s worst agent.
After Bradley Cooper’s character takes this pill, he suddenly becomes handsome:
After acquiring a mental superpower this writer decides he doesn’t want to write anymore. The writer character rings false again. Apparently, struggling writers don’t actually want to write, and if they were smarter, they’d put down the pen. Bullshit! If I had a superpower pill that made me churn out successful books I’d write non stop until the supply ended. Of course, that doesn’t make good fodder for a film. A movie about a guy who’s basically Stephen King won’t sell many tickets. Then why make the character a writer at all? Who the fuck knows.
The subtext makes this whole thing even worse. Writers have a bad reputation as chronic substance abusers, and this film not only reinforces but encourages that dysfunction. The only reason he writes a good book is because of the super drug. His entire life improves because of the super drug, and he becomes a Wallstreet hotshot. There are withdrawals to the drugs, and some issues of addiction are touched upon, but none of that even matters. At the end of the film, the main character retains a whole bunch of the genius the drugs gave to him. That’s right, the end of the film implies there are no long-term negative effects of drug addiction. In fact, the film suggests that drug abuse has long-term benefits. What the fuck?
This film is an antithesis to Requiem for a Dream’s realism, and it’s an absolutely pathetic portrayal of writers negative stereotypes. The movie plays like a lie catering to peoples conception of writers and then transforms into a wish-fulfillment story in a world where drugs give users long-term benefits. I give this film zero executive producer neckties out of five broken mechanical pencils.
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