‘The Words’ earns the letter ‘C’ for its complexities

Brad­ley Cooper and Zoe Saldana star in ‘The Words.’


The Words star­ted off as a prom­ising tale of the mor­al rami­fic­a­tions of pla­gi­ar­ism, rais­ing my hopes about the film. But un­for­tu­nately what un­folds is an anti-cli­mactic drama with no real end­ing.

I prob­ably would have en­joyed it much more if co-writers and dir­ect­ors Bri­an Klug­man and Lee Sternth­al had pro­duced just a story about pla­gi­ar­ism in­stead of a multi-layered film us­ing a story-with­in-a-story ap­proach.

The mar­ket­ing ma­ter­i­als mostly de­pict Brad­ley Cooper and Zoe Saldana as the stars, but there are ac­tu­ally three stor­ies go­ing on at the same time. First, there is au­thor Clay Ham­mond (Den­nis Quaid) who is giv­ing a read­ing of his new book, The Words. Sit­ting in the audi­ence is Dani­ella (Olivia Wilde), a mys­ter­i­ous gradu­ate stu­dent who weasels her way back­stage dur­ing a break, and then to Clay’s apart­ment after the read­ing.

Then, there’s the sub­ject of Ham­mond’s book, as­pir­ing writer Rory Jensen (Cooper) and his wife, Dora (Saldana). While on their hon­ey­moon in Par­is, Dora buys Rory an old briefcase. Back home in Brook­lyn, Rory finds a manuscript in the briefcase and is riv­eted by it. He starts typ­ing it up, word for word, on his com­puter. Dora finds the manuscript on the com­puter and, think­ing Rory wrote it, tells him he should sub­mit it to someone at his job. (Rory is the mail­room su­per­visor at a pub­lish­ing agency.)

The book, called The Win­dow Tears, be­comes a best seller and Rory is a lit­er­ary star.

While sit­ting in Cent­ral Park one af­ter­noon, Rory meets an old man who wants to tell him a story, thus set­ting up the movie’s third lay­er.

The Old Man (Jeremy Irons) tells a story of a young sol­dier (Ben Barnes) in Par­is just after World War II. The sol­dier falls in love with a Parisi­an wo­man (Nora Arnezeder), mar­ries her and has a child. When the baby sud­denly passes away, the wife leaves town and the sol­dier pours his heart and soul in­to writ­ing his life story. Un­for­tu­nately, he mis­places the manuscript and nev­er writes again. So at this point, it is quite ob­vi­ous The Old Man is the au­thor of the manuscript that Rory has passed off as his own, and Rory has a big di­lemma on his hands.

The Words marks the second dud in a row for Cooper, who also starred in Hit and Run. Though he de­liv­ers a sol­id per­form­ance, The Words fails from bad storytelling. It’s billed as a ro­mantic drama, and while there are some ro­mantic ele­ments, I wouldn’t call that an ac­cur­ate de­scrip­tion. And it’s hard to care about the “main” char­ac­ters, Rory and Dora, when their story is most likely made up (re­mem­ber, Clay’s book is a work of fic­tion).

Wilde’s char­ac­ter seemed fairly point­less and ex­pend­able. The motives of her char­ac­ter, Dani­ella, were ques­tion­able and nev­er really re­solved. I couldn’t tell if she knew more about Clay than she was let­ting on or if she was truly just an over­eager fan.

Quaid seems to have signed up only to read a few lines and col­lect an easy paycheck.

I didn’t have the highest ex­pect­a­tions for The Words, giv­en that it’s early Septem­ber, and that’s when stu­di­os are likely to re­lease their worst movies. It turns out my ini­tial in­clin­a­tion was right. ••

Movie Grade: C

You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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