Everybody, in other words, is in search of something or somebody else. Nobody is contented; love and success are elusive. The film ambles along, occasionally throwing up one or two laugh-out-loud lines, but mostly it works as a series of nice little set pieces, the pleasure we get from it being the same we might derive from amusing, overheard conversations. Far too late in the day, a potentially big piece of plotting involving Roy is introduced which in other hands could have turned it into a thriller with some good comedy around the edges, but here it leads almost nowhere; what happens next is left hanging in the air, and the film ends abruptly with no resolution to anybody's dilemmas, rather as though the producers had simply run out of money.
If he had been created for another movie genre, the character of Roy the writer might have had a far more satisfying solution to his blockage. Limitless, which is the kind of slick Hollywood fare presumably despised by Allen, also has a struggling author at its centre, but one who, by taking a simple and yet ground-breaking drug, can utilise 100 per cent of his brain rather than the measly 20 per cent most of us apparently chug along with. Essentially, this is the very definition of a "high concept" film, in that it poses the audience with a party-game question: what would your life be like if you had access to every last piece of your potential?
Directed by Neil Burger, Limitless merely scratches the surface of the possible ramifications, but does so with such panache and with such a strong narrative drive forward that none of the implausibilities come to light until hours afterwards. Our writer here, Eddie (Bradley Cooper), down and out, barely awake half the time, finds his life is transformed by the new wonder pill; like a vampire he becomes super-aware, finishes his book within hours and then goes on to bigger, more lucrative enterprises. As his life trajectory goes through the roof, he is pursued by gangsters and the fear that his stash will run out. It's like Dr Faustus on speed, and one can easily see how its target audience might adopt the peripheral benefits Eddie enjoys — speeding cars, endless socialising — in the belief that he really is living life to the full (after all, many of them do already). In some ways, it's a movie celebration of utter selfishness, but it manages to grip you, and, unlike Woody's effort, it pays you the compliment of having an ending.