Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Directed by Neil Burger.
2011. Rated R, 105 minutes.
Bradley Cooper
Robert De Niro
Abbie Cornish
Andrew Howard
Anna Friel
Johnny Whitworth
Tomas Arana
Richard Bekins
Ned Eisenberg

Eddie (Cooper) is down on his luck. He can’t pay his rent, his girlfriend just dumped him and he looks like he doesn’t bathe. The closest thing he has to a job is working on his novel. By working, I mean staring at his laptop for hours trying to get even the first word written before giving up and heading down to the nearest bar. Somehow, he’s received an advance from a publishing company for the supposedly upcoming book. I’m not quite sure how he managed to turn that trick. It’s obvious that managing anything is a monumental challenge for this guy. By chance, he bumps into his ex-wife’s brother. After some small talk and a couple drinks the brother-in-law gives him an interesting looking pill. We’re told that instead of only being able to access about 20% of his brain like normal folks, this pill will allow him to access the full 100%. I’ve always been told normal folks use 10% so I’m feeling like I’ve been shorted all these years, but whatever. After some apparently not-so-deep thought. Eddie pops the pill and suddenly he’s sharp, focused, motivated and can recall any piece of information he’s ever read, heard or seen at a moment’s notice.

Since the effects only last a day, he hunts down the brother-in-law to get some more. The guy promises him more if he runs a few errands for him. Our hero goes out to get the drycleaning and breakfast only to return to his new dealer’s dead body. Miraculously using his own brain power, he manages to find the stash of pills. Shortly after starting his daily regimen of NZT-48, as the pill is called, he takes his newfound powers to the stock market with the help of $100K in startup money he borrows from a local loan shark. In short ordr he turns that into millions. This makes him a media darling and earns him a spot under the wing of financial mogul Carl Van Loon (De Niro). Eddie’s battle with drug addiction ensues, more or less.

Watching our hero’s meteoric rise is fascinating. We’ve all wondered what was possible if we really reached our full potential. We really could finish that novel, make tons of money and dazzle anyone we come into contact with using just our knowledge. Like all drugs, NZT has side effects. Those are interesting as well. Because of them, he finds himself in some strange predicaments including being suspected of murder. Visually, it’s also a treat. It starts with Eddie’s unbelievably blue eyes whenever he’s on NZT. From there, the movie doesn’t overwhelm us with special fx, but gives us a series of nice touches that form a beautiful picture.

The problem comes with the choice of obstacles to trip up our hero. There are three options and the movie goes with the one that’s by far the least likely. For lack of a better word, it’s just dumb. Let me put it this way: I may not know you personally or have any idea how smart you are, but I’m confident in saying you would’ve avoided this issue without breaking a sweat. You would’ve done so long before it became an issue. Simply put, how smart can he really be and do something so utterly stupid. What would’ve been better, and what I hoped was coming, is Eddie eventually becoming adversaries with and squaring off against Van Loon. Well, it sorta happens. However, it lasts all of about two minutes so I was severely disappointed. While its fun enough to enoy, its inexcusable for a movie about a person with superior intelligence to have it’s protagonist have so much trouble with something us average folks would not.

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