Movie Review: The Words
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 23:09
“The Words” is a textbook example of a movie with excellent elements that ultimately ends up falling short of its potential by figuratively shooting itself in the foot. First-time directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal present the story of Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), a young man who deems of becoming a famous writer. There is one small problem: the work he eventually has published is not his own.
While on their honeymoon in Paris, newlyweds Rory and Dora Jansen (Zoe Saldana) visit an antique shop where Rory purchases a briefcase with a manuscript hidden in one of its pockets. After a series of unsuccessful attempts to publish his own work, Rory discovers the old story and temptation grabs hold. It does not take long for Rory to catapult into stardom, but with stardom comes exposure. Sitting in a park and reading one morning, Rory is confronted by a character known only as “The Old Man” (Jeremy Irons) who tells the young plagiarist the story of writing the book several decades ago and eventually losing it on a train.
The conflict between Rory and the nameless man is well-executed. The old man does not attempt to get credit or compensation for his stolen work. In fact, he is not even angry that his work was stolen. Instead, his anger is mainly fueled by the young author’s apparent lack of appreciation for the intimate history behind the book.The old man stressed it was his own personal story. The ensuing personal turmoil Cooper presents is exceptionally effective in providing a serious and engaging plot.
The fundamental issue with “The Words” is the sloppy and unnecessary use of frame narrative. The film is told in three layers: book writer Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) is reading his book about Rory, who within the book is listening to the old man tell his story of heartbreak in Paris following the Second World War. Quaid’s character serves no real function within the movie, and his screen time is a series of forgettable fractions of the film, followed by a confusing short segment at the very end. The love story between Rory and Dora is well developed, but the movie attempts to create a similar parallel between Clay and literature student Daniella (Olivia Wilde), while only having a handful of minutes with which to do it. The final product of this attempt is unfitting and awkward.
“The Words” provides a great story with plenty of depth between the two innermost layers of the narrative. Their story is presented with beautiful shots in well-created settings involving well-acted and well-developed characters. Unfortunately, the problematic outer layer negatively offsets those positive traits as it attempts to create a dense and complicated film.