Limitless 2011 Based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. Directed by Neil Burger. Aspiring writer Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is lower than down and out when his brother-in-law, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth), gives him a pill (NZT-48 ) that enhances brainpower, creating perfect recall and analytic skills. Eddie finishes a bestseller in record speed, reads volumes in minutes, wins at cards, teaches himself foreign languages, invests well in the market…you get the idea. Girlfriend Lindy (Abby Cornish) who broke up with unmotivated, loser Eddie, makes up with his new persona. Then the pill wears off.
Vernon is murdered by thugs looking for the drug. Eddie finds the stash and embarks on a new life. He’s hired by tycoon Carlos “Carl” Van Loon (Robert Di Niro) to consult on financial matters. People around him start to die. He’s followed. Eddie hires a bodyguard and sets up a laboratory. Addiction, murder, and political success follow. There are loose ends, but behavior is credible in context and its concept is not too much of a stretch. Visuals are evocative. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Words 2012 Directed by Brian Klugman. Reading to an audience from his book, novelist Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid) tells the following story: Struggling writer Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) and his fiancé Dora (Zoe Saldana) are living on borrowed money from Roy’s father (J.K. Simmons). The couple honeymoons in Paris where Rory buys an old briefcase in an antique shop. They return to America. Rejection letters pile up. One night, Rory examines the case and finds a manuscript inside. He starts to read and excited, types the entire piece into his laptop. Dora finds it, assumes it’s her husband’s work, and pushes him to take it to a publisher.
The book is a smash success radically changing their lives. All seems rosy until Rory meets the book’s real author (Jeremy Irons) and feels compelled to tell his wife. A good story. The plot of a wife leaving her husband’s manuscript in a leather satchel on a train is reminiscent Hadley Hemingway leaving a briefcase containing his writing up to 1922 on a train, manuscripts never recovered. Free with Amazon Prime.
Silver Linings Playbook 2012 Based on a novel by Matthew Quick. Directed by David O. Russell. Bipolar Patrick “Pat” Solitano, Jr. (Bradley Cooper) is released home from a psychiatric hospital. His parents (Robert Di Niro and Jacki Weaver) are patient but hard pressed. Pat is obsessed with reuniting with ex-wife Nikki (Brea Bee), despite a restraining order. Not taking his medication provokes erratic, sometimes violent behavior. One night at dinner, Pat meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence, Best Actress Academy Award), a young widow with an unnamed disorder. Tiffany “gets” him and is strongly attracted, but Pat can’t get his mind off Nikki. Pat’s dad is involved in illegal bookmaking in hopes of getting his restaurant back. A dance competition might bring the young people together, though the partners have wildly different motivations. Good writing, good acting. Rent on Amazon Prime.
American Hustle 2013 Inspired by the FBI Abscam Operation of the late 1970s. Directed by David O. Russell. Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are partners in cons. He loves her but can’t leave histrionic wife Roslyn (Jennifer Lawrence) for fear of losing contact with an adopted son. FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) catches Irving and Sydney in a scam and makes a deal to let them go if Irving can line up four additional arrests. One con involves Camden, New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Cons, characters, and relationships are complex. Depiction of the era is spot-on, acting excellent. “American Hustle is an urban eruption of flat-out fun — the sharpest, most exhilarating comedy in years. Anyone who says otherwise must be conning you.” (Richard Corliss- Time Magazine) Rent on Amazon Prime.
Burnt 2015 From a story by Michael Kalesniko. Directed by John Wells. When ego, temper and drug use destroy the Paris career of Chef Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper), he retreats to New Orleans to shuck oysters and get his life together. Finally clean, Adam flies to London hoping for a new beginning. The drug dealer to whom he owes considerable money tracks him and will eventually catch up. Adam tricks his way into a new position only to suffer a disastrous opening night. He explodes at his valuable sous chef Helene (Sienna Miller) who quits. Gradual regret and retribution involve the French restaurant he destroyed, Anne (Alicia Vikander), the girlfriend he abandoned in Paris, rehiring Helene, a sense of kitchen family, and a Michelin star. Also featuring Emma Thompson, Daniel Bruhl, Uma Thurman, Matthew Rhys, Omar Sy. Cooper’s on screen spin-outs are entirely credible. Sympathy is difficult, however. Rent on Amazon Prime.
A Star is Born 2018 Produced, directed (debut), and co-written by Bradley Cooper. Starring Cooper and Lady Gaga with Sam Elliott as the hero’s step-brother/manager. Jackson “Jack” Maine is a drug and alcohol addicted country/rock star. At a drag bar (modern, get it?), he watches waitress/singer/songwriter Ally perform a Piaf song. They spend the night talking. Ally shares an original song. Jack is impressed. He pushes her onstage at one of his gigs, then invites her on tour. They fall in love. And marry. Ally is approached by an independent producer who changes her image. (Not for the better.) Jack objects for several reasons, not the least jealousy and loss of influence. When she wins three Grammys, he disrupts the ceremony, then enters rehab. Ally demands (of her label) that Jack accompany her on tour, but is refused. She cancels the tour.
Her manager then privately tears into Jack, blaming him for holding Esther back. While she’s onstage, he commits suicide. Ally sings a song he wrote for her, introducing herself for the first time as Ally Maine. In 2011, it was announced Clint Eastwood would direct Beyonce in the remake, but she was pregnant. Depends entirely whether you’re a Gaga nut. Both actors do a credible job, though the film feels long and rather self-glorifying. Stick with the Judy Garland/James Mason version. Or Rent on Amazon Prime, free with Netflix.
Top photo: Bigstock