There isn’t much to this one, but the fears and worries of the main protagonist spoke to me and for that reason I really liked The Words. It is a movie about a story within a story about how another story was stolen. It sounds convoluted and it kind of is. The only reason to write a story like that is because you don’t have enough substance for any of the three ideas you are putting out there. One of the three stories are really good, one is so-so, and one is outright bad, but for me the good outweighed the bad and for that I liked The Words.
Luckily the best part of the movie is the most substantive part and gets the most screen time. Bradley Cooper stars as Rory Jansen a struggling writer looking for his big break. What is a little detracting is how good looking he is, how beautiful his wife is in Zoe Saldana and how big of a loft they live in at New York City despite the fact he is a struggling artist, but every movie similar to this commits these sins so you need to drive past it. Rory’s problem is that he is just not good enough to get that big break he is working for. Early in the film he realizes his short comings and it is heartbreaking to watch. They truly capture a moment any artist, any one who tries to achieve their dream fear. Then, in a moment that could only happen in the movies, he finds a masterpiece hidden in an old compartment of a vintage suitcase. Bradley Cooper is sensational in this part, and has really grown since his original role as the mega-douche in The Wedding Crashers. His emotional distress, deciding how to handle this anonymous gift that has been laid before him is compelling and interesting to watch unfold. In no doubt due to the talent of Cooper
To absolutely no one’s surprise Jeremy Irons playing the old man (actual character name) stole every scene he was in. It was almost difficult to tell it was him under so much make up but his recounting and creeping on Rory Jansen was fantastic. He also had a back story to tell, but unfortunately Ben Barnes who played the younger version of the character was not nearly as compelling. Though the story itself was decent enough to keep me engaged, it always got better listening to Irons narrate over it, or a quick cut back to Irons and Cooper sitting on the park bench.
The moment the movie lost me was when Dennis Quaid and Olivia Wilde took the main stage. Actually they were fine in the first two thirds of the movie as the frame story. Mostly because it only dealt with these character briefly and then moved on to the main story. In the third act when they take the party back to his apartment to do what grad students do with famous authors, the movie took a predictable turn. The two add nothing to the movie and create a very trite ending which is sad considering how the movie had built itself.
For all the talk about books the writing behind the story isn’t that good. When you boil this movie down it really is more of a melodramatic trashy romance novel than it is a best selling novel. From the reading we do get, it doesn’t sound like anything that would become such literary gold. Probably because like most screenwriters Lee Sternthal and Brian Klugman, who wrote and directed the movie, write like failed novelists turned screenwriters. Which makes sense as to why Bradley Cooper’s character is the most well developed of the bunch. It seems like they sympathize with the man who just wants the world to hear their voice. It also may explain why a man who is caught as a plagiarist seems to be breezing through life.
It is best to forget about the third act of The Words and relish in the melodrama and suburb cast and skill in the first hour of the movie. For my readers who enjoy things like writing, reading books and even arithmetic you may find this movie frustrating and more like a made for TV movie than something with a major theatrical release. For a movie about books and writing it is a very elementary and convoluted story. But it is the performance that put it over the edge for me, that and the question of: am I good enough? The same thing I ask myself every time I write a review. I don’t think I want the answer. C+