The Words (2012)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
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Overall Rating 70%
Overall Rating
Ranked #1,669
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The Words follows young writer Rory Jansen who finally achieves long sought after literary success after publishing the next great American novel. There's only one catch - he didn't write it. As the past comes back to haunt him and his literary star continues to rise, Jansen is forced to confront the steep price that must be paid for stealing another man's work, and for placing ambition and success above life's most fundamental three words. --TMDb
Review by bluemeanie
Added: September 15, 2012
How does one devise the proper words when describing a movie like The Words?

Expectations. Are there were plenty. For starters, that cast: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Zoe Seldana, Olivia Wilde, Ben Barnes, J.K. Simmons - just to name a few. The film played at Sundance and was acquired quickly by CBS Films and it seemed that CBS Films had so much confidence in the picture that it gave it a wide release instead of the (I am sure) presumed limited run.

To quote Eminem: "Back to reality; oops, there goes gravity."

What a convoluted mess of a picture The Words is - a slick package with a lump of coal inside; some fine performances bogged down by an incompetent narrative. It's a story about a writer who writes a book about a 'fictional' writer who steals a book written by a guy who wrote the book and then lost it. And, all the while, we get narration from just about every cast member in the whole damned picture. If there is the one thing The Words taught me: Never invite Dennis Quaid to read selections out of any book because he'll bring about as much passion and energy to it as he would to a date with Meg Ryan's new face.

I guess the main character (because I guess he is the only real one, sort of but not really) is author Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid) who has written a book called The Words. It's about a young aspiring writer, Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) and his wife, Dora (Zoe Seldana). Rory wants very badly to be a great writer but just can't seem to catch a break, until he finds a hidden manuscript, reads it and realizes it's better than anything he could ever pen himself. So he presents the work as his own and achieves overnight success. Everything is going great until he is visited by The Old Man (Jeremy Irons) who actually wrote the book. The Old Man tells Rory the whole story about how the book came to be; he is played as a younger man by Ben Barnes. So, remember - one author telling a story about a fake author talking to an old man about another story about how he wanted to be an author? Something like that. I guess.

Crowded. That's how this film feels. There's just too much going on and first-time directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal just don't know how to make it work. The whole Dennis Quaid/Olivia Wilde is totally unnecessary and the least interesting piece of the entire film. We don't get enough information about that whole storyline to make sense of...well...anything and we're kind of left hanging with it. You could have wiped all of that out of the film and treated the Bradley Cooper storyline as the primary and sole focus and that would have been a strong enough narrative to carry the film. Instead, the way they've handled it, it makes that storyline feel pointless, when it's really the central dramatic question of the picture.

Experience. To know what's working and what's not. The parts that work are the least featured elements of the film. For example, Jeremy Irons is terrific. He delivers the best performance in the film and makes his character intriguing, mysterious, sympathetic and confusing. Ben Barnes is quite good here in a role that offers next to no dialogue. You're riveted every second he's on screen and yet that whole storyline is fleeting in the grand scheme of this picture. The Ben Barnes storyline could have carried an entire film on its own and those moments are so tantalizing that we're disappointed with what we're given instead.

Consequences. To me, that is what was most missing. This is a film where actions do not have consequences. If the Bradley Cooper character did face any, it was after the credits rolled. The writers have chosen to present us with no protagonists, no antagonists, no climax - nothing even close to what you would call a satisfying conclusion. How do you conclude something that didn't really begin? The directors bring no urgency to the film because there's just nothing urgent about it. It seems to be wanting to build some tension but doesn't quite know how to get there. The Words doesn't have the 'words' to make itself work.

Don't make the mistake of assuming a film called The Words has any grasp of how to make them work. Don't make the mistake of thinking great performers can save a lackluster script. And don't make the mistake of pretending to understand why the things in this film that happen could have happened. The Words is a disjointed, unfocused and maudlin on many levels, saved only slightly by performances from Jeremy Irons and Ben Barnes and the fact that it's not long enough to be boring. I see now why CBS Films gave this film a wide release - they wanted to get as much money as possible out of the thing before sending it to a quick death. It's now obvious that their confidence in the film has September written all over it. 5/10.
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