Friday, July 8, 2011

Fix It Fridays: Limitless

Hear ye, hear ye! Today we begin what may (or may not depending on my whim) become a recurring feature on the blog. It’s Fix It Fridays! Hi, my name is Vivi and I’m a movie addict. But if loving movies is wrong, I don’t want to be right, baby.

I’ve always loved movies, even before I possessed the critical faculties to distinguish a good one from a bad one. When I was a youngun, I used to say I loved every movie, because I didn’t draw a line between the movie & the movie-going experience. And while I still love all movie experiences, I am now much more critical of the films themselves. (Tangent: I think that editorial part of the brain develops during puberty while the creative part develops much earlier. Your thoughts?) I’m also the kind of girl who doesn’t like to notice a problem without coming up with a solution, so when I’m watching a movie and it isn’t quite working for me, I rewrite it in my head. I identify the pieces where it went off the tracks and rework them in my head so they are perfect, shiny and new. Sometimes, I become so attached to my version that I forget how the movie actually went.

Anyway, I’ve decided to post a few of my “fixes” here on the blog, just because I find them interesting and I can, because I am the god of my blog-iverse. Today, we're taking a look at Limitless. A recent not-so-blockbusterish release starring Bradley Cooper & Robert De Niro.

You ready? Let's get to it. (Oh, and there will be HELLA SPOILERS so consider yourself warned.)

Basic Premise: Our hero is a smart guy who never lived up to his potential. He is a writer chock full of writer's block, living in a lousy apartment (which probably costs a mint cuz he's a New Yorker), divorced and currently being broken up with by his hot, successful blond girlfriend. He bumps into an old (drug-dealer) acquaintance and is given a designer pill (first one's on the house, that's how they hook you, baby). Said pill is like Adderall on Crack (which would be actual crack, right? but in this case is just Magic Potential Juice called NZT-### and our boy has been told by the totally credible drug dealer that it's FDA approved and all that good stuff...). NZT makes you sharper, more focused, and basically smartens you up and motivates you at the same time. Our boy cleans his apartment, writes his book (genius!) in a matter of days, and then decides he needs to think bigger. And that's when the real fun begins. His drug-dealer buddy has taken a bullet to the head and there are other people who are veeeery interested in Our Hero's (stolen from the dead dealer) drug stash. Let the thriller portion of the plot commence! Of course the drug has side effects and well, I'll stop it there because I have to leave some surprises.

That's the basic. Here are my issues:

1) I didn't like the hero. Even my natural instinct to like Bradley Cooper (and his dimples) couldn't overcome the douchiness with which the hero is first introduced. His problems are very clearly his own fault and while the dickhead hero might have a ring of verisimilitude, it doesn't make me want to root for him to overcome and prevail and all that good stuff.

THE FIX: We want to like him. We do. So maybe let's not have the very first thing he does under the influence of the drug be to manipulate his married landlady into having sex with him in exchange for help on her law school paper. And also, instead of a mid-morning drinking binge and literally no words written (I have no sympathy for that), let's show him struggling. Down on his luck, but not self-sabotaging. Writing, having his editor reject his chapters as uninspired, or better still, have his editor tell him that the book is good, but the market is shifting and they just don't have a place for it in their list right now - so it looks like he is trying, doing everything he is capable of without the drug, but it just isn't enough. Then the message of the story becomes about rewarding EFFORT, rather than the rather unsatisfying rewarding of the Douchebag that actually occurs in the film.

2) The publishing industry don't work like that. How exactly did this apparently UNPUBLISHED science fiction author get a contract with an advance without having written a SINGLE WORD? Did he somehow sell on a pitch? WTF? And why is he hand-delivering printed out pages to his editor's desk. Did his internet get disconnected? Does he not live within tripping-over distance of one of the gajillion Starbucks with free internet in the five boroughs area? And since he hasn't bathed in a while and looks a little like the Unabomber, how did he even get in the building with the suspicious manuscript shaped package?

THE FIX: Easy easy easy fix. Just have him be a writer in a sophomore slump. Have his first book already released to tepid reviews. Someone can ask him about his published book and say something like "Why haven't I heard of it?" (Writers hate this question. At least I do.) His option book is due, it's already looking like it won't be published, the numbers just aren't there. His career is over before it began... Depression is circling, self-doubt triggers the writer's block, then the pill enters the equation. He writes a BRILLIANT second book. Epic. The publishing house reverses course. They will relaunch him. Promo campaigns and book tours are suddenly on the table. His new book is JUST THAT GOOD. (But he emails it. Dear God, please let him flipping email it. And the actress playing his editor misses out on those luscious twenty-two seconds of screen time.)

3) The stock market don't work like that. Our hero makes two million dollars from a hundred thousand in a week on the stock market. That isn't possible. I realize he's supposed to be freakishly brilliant and that makes it possible, but the math just doesn't work (and we all know how rabid I get over faulty math). The margins of return are too low per sale, the way stocks (especially speculative ones) are effected by large orders, taxes... I'm not an expert on this, so I consulted with my dad (who is) on this particular point because it seemed hinky and he was even more bothered than I had been by this flaw.

THE FIX: Poker. It's that simple. Gambling does have the rate of returns we're talking about. There is even a montage showing our boy cleaning up at poker - which is logical considering his ability to calculate statistics, read body language, and psychologically profile his opponents. But then, immediately after the high living poker montage, he is broke (wha? what happened to the money he stole then gambled into a larger amount?). He goes to a loan shark. Ugh - stupid plot device because you need the threat of the loan shark later... but really you don't. Have the Thug role be played by someone related to the Drug Dealer, not someone our Idiot Hero owes money because he somehow spent (how is that smart, brainiac?) all the money he stole/won. The truth is, our hero could make forty million on poker alone. So why the big significance placed on making a forty million dollar bonus brokering a merger? I suppose if our hero wants to be president, it would look bad if he made his millions gambling... but not if he invested those millions in philanthropy. Anyway, can you be elected president if you are a person of interest in multiple homicide investigations? Wouldn't that be the PR campaign from hell.

Okay, moral of the story - the movie was good. Fascinating. But the hero needed to be less of an ass, he needed to have a book (failed) under his belt before he got the contract he couldn't complete, and the money trail needed a jolt of logic. Still, intriguing premise. Very interesting idea.

Sadly, it's impossible to actually predict events the way he was credited with doing because people are often irrational, illogical, or just plain dumb. And while you can predict that we will react irrationally to a certain stimuli, it is impossible to predict the stimuli, the trigger that will set off the ripples in our jacked-in society - which is why we're always chasing yesterday's successes.

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