I missed the press screenings of Neil Burger‘s Limitless, partly due to being in Austin last week, so last night I paid money (!) to see it at the Bruin in Westwood. Like everyone else I was simply intrigued by the idea of dropping a pill and suddenly being ten or twenty times brighter. I’d had a stirring time with William Hurt‘s radical transformation from cocky loquacious scientist to mystical raging-monk voyager in Ken Russell ‘s Altered States, and I sensed that a similar ride with Bradley Cooper might be in store.

And there is a 15- or 20-minute passage when Cooper, a failed New York writer, begins to pop tablet after tablet of an unapproved “smart drug” called NZT, one or two per day, and soon becomes a kind of intellectual superman. And it’s fun to share in this. The rest of the film is only so-so, but I was marginally impressed by Burger’s use of “welcome to a new world” visual effects — Cooper being split into several different like-minded versions of himself, the camera speeding into infinity, the world being a kind of sparkling acid-trip realm that Cooper is comprehending and adapting to with amazing ease.

For the first time in my life I started to wonder what it would be like to take Adderall, an FDA-approved treatment for ADD and ADHD but has long been a popular stimulant among writers. I’ve never taken any prescription medication for anything and I’m not likely to start now, but Limitless at least had me thinking about it. That in itself means something.