Genre: Drama Director: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal Cast: Bradley Cooper, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, Jeremy Irons, Ben Barnes, John Hannah, J.K. Simmons, Nora Arnezeder RunTime: 1 hr 42 mins Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language) Released By: Shaw Official Website:http://thewordsmovie.com/
Opening Day: 4 October 2012
Synopsis: When Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) publishes his first book it is that rare, once in a generation event that takes the literary world and the public imagination by storm. Friends breathlessly recommend it, critics rave about it; it's everywhere- from book clubs, to airplanes, to college campuses. With a voice that's fresh, and a wisdom about life that somehow seems to be timeless, Rory becomes an instant literary star. Charismatic, talented, intelligent, the young author seems to have it all: a beautiful life, a loving wife (Zoë Saldana), the world at his fingertips- and it's all because of his words. But whose words are they? And whose story is this, after all? At the height of his success, a mysterious Old Man (Jeremy Irons) tracks Rory down and confronts him with the revelation that he is the true author of the novel. The Old Man recounts the beautiful yet tragic memories of his own youth in post World War II Paris that led to the creation of the book. Seeing that another man has paid the price for the stories' truth and vision, Rory is left to confront the essential questions of creativity, ambition and the moral choices he has made at the mercy of these drives. Written as a story within a story, Rory's life is itself a fictional creation. Behind it all is the real life literary lion, Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid.) Seduced by a beautiful and cunning Grad Student (Olivia Wilde) into talking about the true meaning of his novel, he cannot help hinting at the connection between the story and his own secret past.
With its numerous epic pretensions,The Words is a film that sets a high bar for itself and for it to be judged. Yet, despite an intrigue-heavy trailer, rousing soundtrack and multiple Hemingway references, The Words misses a certain X factor. An amateur effort by first-time directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, The Words is a film that announces its predictable plot at every scene, twist and turn. Playing it too safe, the directors’ excruciatinglydirect narration, pacing and editing are awkward approaches to building a riveting psychological drama.
In Limitless (2011), Bradley Cooper playsan aspiring writer who turns to drugs for “inspiration.” He reprises a similar role in The Words, but this time, as desperate writer Rory Jansen who plagiarises by passing off an exemplary manuscript he finds in a vintage briefcase as his own. By putting out performances any decent film or theatre graduate can muster, Cooper is boring in the role, and doeslittle to salvage an already lacklustre script.
Many years later after “The Window Tears” becomes a bestseller, and Rory shoots to fame, he meets a strange old man (played by Jeremy Irons) who tells him that he is the true author of the novel. The old man shows up unexectedly à la John Shooter (played by John Turturro) in a Secret Window (2004), but with less menacing gestures and creepiness.
As he recounts the “stories behind [his] stories,” the old man’s flashback scenes make up the more enjoyable moments of the film. He recalls his days as a young American soldier [played by Ben Barnes, who starred as Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia series (2008 and 2010], who falls in love with a French woman [played by Nora Arnezeder from Paris 36 (2008) fame]. These are the two characters that really stood out in the film, and the couple confirms the age-old Hollywood formula that a pretty cast and set mask many flaws.
Thankfully, as the film progresses, it gets a bit more “interior,” or artistic and subtle, in the words of its own protagonist, Clay Hammond (played by Dennis Quaid). What starts off as a simple mise en abîme, or “story within a story,” becomes a three-tiered story within a story within a story towards the end, as a nicely-layered dialogue between a famous author (Hammond) and snooping, aspiring writer Daniella (Olivia Wilde)reveals Hammond as the real-life Rory Jansen and author-impostor.
This is where the film finally plays its cards right, as directors Klugman and Sternthal (who also wrote the script) shuns the typical course of the ultimate exposé. There is no comeuppance for Rory nor revenge for the old man. Instead, the film spotlights Rory’s scars of guilt and his desire for forgiveness that uncannily manifests in Hammond. This twist at the end almost redeems the film, and I say almost because the thematic blurring between author’s actual lives and their works of fiction has been explored countless times, and The Words comes nowhere near the satirical brilliance of Spike Jonze’s Adaptation (2002). The central theme about living with one’s choices also becomes repetitively didactic.
It takes patience to sit through the first half of The Words, which, summed up in two, is “indulgently clichéd.” The film’s lack of originality is painfully apparent, but seems to have been puzzlingly lost on the directors and producers. Thoroughly average, The Words uncomfortably teeters between the earnest, point-blank simplicity by which it frames its moral lessons and the distant complexity required of a psychological drama.
(Indulgently clichéd and thoroughly average, the debut film by directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal falls short on many levels)