Look at that face! Honestly, would a face like Bradley’s lie to you?
Bradley Cooper stars as Rory Jansen, a struggling writer who happens upon a lost manuscript in a weathered attaché case. After he decides to pass the work as his own, he finally gets the recognition he so craved for but he soon has to face his actions when the original author (Jeremy Irons) comes to him.
After I got the chance to meet the writers/directors of this flick, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, I found out that it took them over 12 years to finally get this piece off of the ground. So, think about that: this script has been in writing since 2000 and you would think that with such a long time to be revised, edited, and perfected that we would sort of have a masterpiece on our hands, right? Sad to say this, but I don’t think 12 years were worth waiting to see this story. Great guys, though!
Needless to say, Klugman and Sternthal have definitely made a very ambitious film that people will either hate or love due to the approach. The whole framing device starts off with one older guy, reading a story about this young writer who steals this other piece of work, which in and of itself is a story about a man and the love he found in post-WWII Paris. Judging by what you read there, you could probably say that this flick is either way too pretentious for it’s own good. And I would probably say that you are right but it is very interesting to see where and how these stories come together. The whole idea of whether or not these stories reflect fact or fiction come up plenty of times throughout the whole movie and they offer some pretty interesting questions you may have about this film once it’s all over in it’s brief, 96-minute run-time.
But as interesting as this film could be with it’s clever premise and general idea about what’s real and what’s not, the material never fully comes off the page (pun intended). I can definitely see why so many people were ready to buy-out this script around Sundance last year because all of the plot’s happenings and ideas seem a lot more subtle and hidden when you’re reading it. But the problem is, that once you get it on-screen, it comes off as a bit flimsy, especially when you have a bunch of the scenes revolving around a dude just typing away on his type-writer. Trust me, I love writing, I do it almost every day, and I can’t get enough of it, but there is nothing exciting or tense about watching somebody do that. There’s plenty of that here, along with some cringe worthy lines where Bradley professes to himself that he doesn’t really know who he is anymore, and that this whole guilt-trip about him taking over somebody else’s work is getting to him too much. Didn’t see that plot-device coming at all…
Speaking of that, what the hell was even the main message behind this whole movie in the first place? It seemed like Klugman and Sternthal wanted to say how stealing other people’s work is bad and will weigh heavily on your conscience, but do they not realize that this is a known thing ever since the days of 5th grade where kids had to start writing their own papers? It’s fine to talk about something that has already been talked about before but the idea of a guy stealing another person’s work, only to find out that it is terribly wrong, does not do much for me as it may have for Klugman and Sternthal. I wonder how many papers of their’s was sent back with a big “F-” due to stealing other people’s works.
If there is somewhat of a saving grace to this flick, it probably has to be the cast that does everything in their power and will to save this muddled story from going to shit. Bradley Cooper has a very strong presence in the lead here, even if a lot of the stuff he is called to do consists of him staring off into space, looking like he’s just done something completely and terribly wrong. He did, and we get that right from the start but we didn’t need to keep on being reminded every 5 seconds whenever the guy looks sad. Zoe Saldana is fine as his beau, and brings out some great drama in a role that seems so empty and shallow once you think about why she is in the story.
The only real bad acting I could find in this flick was Dennis Quaid’s as Clay Hammond, the old dude who’s reading Bradley’s book in the beginning of the movie. Firstly, the whole story with him and Olivia Wilde comes off as terribly random and stupid and does practically nothing for the movie. Secondly, I don’t know if it’s just the fact that he’s getting older and seems a lot creepier, but the way Quaid phrases a lot his sexy lines to Wilde (who is 30 years younger than him, mind you) makes him seem like he’s doing a very bad impersonation of my dad when he tries to talk to me about girls. If you don’t know my dad, you won’t really get the joke but just think of those awkward dads that always try to talk to you about the ladies, then you’ll get my drift, hopefully.
Once Jeremy Irons comes into this flick, then everything else bad with this movie sort of just disappears because of what this guy can do. Everybody knows that Irons can play a sly mother-humper as if it was nobody else’s business and he does that perfectly here, while also being able to add some true depth and emotion to a character that isn’t the film as long as you’d like to hope. It also probably helps that his whole story about him and his lover in France was perhaps the most emotionally-invested part of the movie I had and reminded me a bit of The Notebook in a way. Not saying that I was insanely giddy by that fact but at least it was something that kept my eyes on-the-screen and not on my cellular device.
Consensus: Even with some smart ideas and good performances from the ensemble, The Words still never seems to come full-circle with it’s story or it’s intentions. Instead, it just features barely little or no thrills, and offers nothing new to what it has to say about the act of plagiarism and the guilt that comes over a person after they commit it. Well, other than it being bad and you shouldn’t do it.
Saw the trailer for this and I have to say it really didnt grab me. The premise of the story reminded me of Murder of Crows, but this obviously has much more to it than that. Still, I can miss this one for sure.
It’s nothing special, but not unbearable either. Just forgettable.
Since I really liked the whole idea and the trailer kind of built an interest, I will watch this. I don’t really like Cooper though but the poster is wicked!
The poster is pretty cool, and also a lot cooler than that lame with him and Saldana just laying on the bed. What the hell is that supposed to represent!?
I have no idea.. definitely a bad poster. You chose a better one for your post! Yay!
Great review, Dan! I’m totally with you on Dennis Quaid. I felt like his flirting with Olivia Wilde came off as very odd and creepy. I think Jeremy Irons, and his story, was the strength of the film.
The highlight of the film was with Irons and the huge negative was with Wilde and Quaid. That story-line blew.
Agreed, all the elements seem to be there – except for Quaid’s performance – but it just doesn’t pop the way it should, right? See my tepid review.
It doesn’t get moving fully, almost until it’s too late really. Thanks Colin! Nice review!
I liked the layers, but didn’t think they were fleshed out enough to build up to a great conclusion. Good review Dan. Here’s mine…
Thanks Ethan! Characters didn’t really entertain me as much as I would have liked really.
Hi Dan – We are on the same page on this – I gave it a three out of five, Average at best. I didn’t like Cooper as much as you did. And for Clay + Daniella (Quaid + Wilde) they served only as the base reality. As I said in my review – it was a nice try but they won’t have a hit film on their hands.
I didn’t know the history of this script so I appreciate that bit of background you offered for us.
No problem for that! It’s a real wonder why this script wasn’t polished more when it took over 12 years to get going.
Dan send good words to Klugman and Sternthal as I liked it a lot more than most and gave it a 7/10; a lower rating due to casting not story. The casting weak link as everyone is pointing out is Quaid. I hardly think 50+ is “old guy” but creepy he was. Check out why I like the movie in my review. Thanks for the backgrounder on the film.
Already have, and solid review. I think everybody’s on the same boat with saying how Quaid was a bit creepy.