Reviews — December 14
The film “Limitless” reminds me of the old “Twilight Zone” episodes, where a character confronts some supernatural or sci-fi anomaly that’s weird for them but thoroughly enjoyable for the viewer. This crackling action thriller has Bradley Cooper discovering a pill allowing him full access to the powers of his mind, unlike the rest of us mortals, who are presumed to use only part of it. I am not sure if that’s true, but who cares?
I’ll say up front that, in hindsight, this could have been a vastly more imaginative story. About all Cooper does, when it comes down to it, is use his powers to get rich — and one rarely gets filthy rich without making some enemies, no matter how you do it. Even so, I loved every silly minute of it, from the mind-blowing opening credits up until the final scene, which has Cooper in a memorable stand-off with his Wall Street mentor, beautifully underplayed by Robert De Niro.
Cooper is growing on me. Although he’s been cursed with a “Sexiest Man Alive” People magazine cover, the guy can act. Here, he is both star and narrator. And, when necessary, action hero. At one crucial moment, I saw the delightfully disgusting way out of his dilemma, and I yelled, “Don’t do it!” at the screen. Then he did, and I laughed. It’s that kind of movie.
“Limitless” (2011) Directed by Neil Burger. Starring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish.105 minutes. Rated R for violence, language, brief nudity.
Dana Gynther’s novel “Crossing on the Paris” focuses on three women aboard the SS Paris on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic in 1921 — and on the grand ship itself.
The book is fiction, but the Paris was real. It was one of many ocean liners that were the main form of transatlantic travel in the late 1800s and early 20th century.
Liners weren’t for Caribbean cruises in those days. The mail, consumer goods and people all crossed the ocean by ship. (A great companion to this novel is “A Man and His Ship,” Steven Ujifusa’s nonfiction work about ship designer William Francis Gibbs, which I reviewed earlier this fall.)
For passengers, the trip was defined by ticket class.
First class was all about fresh air, spectacular views and the most luxurious accommodations possible, from thick carpets and fine art in the common areas to gourmet food and service at the snap of one’s fingers. Second class was comfortable and clean.
But steerage, the class booked by most immigrants, meant stuffy quarters far below decks, plain food, engine noise and constant, nauseating rocking.
Julie, the youngest of the three main characters in “Crossing on the Paris,” doesn’t just travel in steerage; she works there. Her face marred by a birthmark, she isn’t considered pretty enough to interact with the first-class passengers.
No matter. Julie, who grew up next to the French harbor where liners dock, is excited to have a job on a ship and to be leaving home for the first time. Sadly, it’s not all smooth sailing for her.
Constance, in second class, crossed the ocean a few weeks earlier in hopes of convincing her wayward sister to return to the U.S. She’s heading home alone. The five-day voyage gives her time and reason to question the stagnant life awaiting her.
Vera is a wealthy ex-pat who, after 30 years in France, has decided to live out her last days in New York City. As experienced as she is, she learns something aboard ship that nearly capsizes her world.
The three women, so different, are thrown together on the Paris several times (I could have done without their numerous exclamations about that coincidence). They become fast friends.
That may be a bit farfetched for 1921. But then again, these women are ahead of their time in many ways. So why wouldn’t they be willing to break out of the class distinctions of their era?
“Crossing on the Paris,” Dana Gynther, 2012, Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster