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The Words (2012)



Average Rating: 4.6/10
Reviews Counted: 117
Fresh: 26 | Rotten: 91

Neither as clever nor as interesting as it appears to think it is, The Words maroons its talented stars in an overly complex, dramatically inert literary thriller that's ultimately a poor substitute for a good book.


Average Rating: 5/10
Critic Reviews: 35
Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 29

Neither as clever nor as interesting as it appears to think it is, The Words maroons its talented stars in an overly complex, dramatically inert literary thriller that's ultimately a poor substitute for a good book.



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Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 47,657

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Movie Info

Starring Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde and ZoŽ Saldana, the layered romantic drama 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

Dec 24, 2012


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All Critics (117) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (26) | Rotten (91) | DVD (3)

A mostly middling drama.

September 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Newark Star-Ledger | Comment (1)
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The story-within-a-story-within-a-story is so slight and inconsequential, like the tiniest of a set of Russian nesting dolls, that we may be forgiven for letting our minds wander toward bedtime and tomorrow's errands.

September 7, 2012 Full Review Source: The Atlantic | Comments (2)
The Atlantic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The premise is ambitious -- if not a little hokey -- but the meager themes of ephemeral authorship and constructed realities aren't exactly revelatory.

September 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Bradley Cooper's funniest movie since "The Hangover" - unfortunately, unintentionally this time ...

September 7, 2012 Full Review Source: New York Post
New York Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This film's layered storytelling lacks the fluidity, grace, or good humour, to pull off its conceit.

September 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail | Comments (2)
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Romanticized claptrap.

September 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Newsday
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This tedious and needlessly convoluted drama ... just meanders aimlessly.

July 17, 2013 Full Review Source:

A movie about a bad author who steals the book of a good author, and I'm pretty certain that The Words, if pressed, wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

June 23, 2013 Full Review Source: Deadspin

It's nothing you haven't seen before in films about struggling artists spending more time obsessing than working.

May 26, 2013 Full Review Source: The Patriot Ledger
The Patriot Ledger

Its long, dry patches of colourless storytelling suggest it makes more sense as a book, one to read before you fall asleep to dream of better movies.

May 2, 2013 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

In a relevant study of plagiarism, influences and lifetime experiences, The Words chiefly reminds us that the past is indelible.

April 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Birmingham Mail
Birmingham Mail

Like a Russian nesting doll, this film tells a story within a story within another story, playing around with fact and fiction, as well as the nature of creative inspiration and integrity.

April 19, 2013 Full Review Source:

Nothing, absolutely nothing, makes 'The Words' interesting.

November 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)
Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)

The Words becomes one of the year's most irritating movies.

October 20, 2012 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

Engrossing morality tale about lying, guilt and just how great a character actor Jeremy Irons has turned into.

October 19, 2012 Full Review Source: 3AW

I like the idea but The Words is a little too preachy, too melodramatic for my liking.

October 15, 2012 Full Review Source: ABC Radio Brisbane
ABC Radio Brisbane

This isn't an Oscar-contending powerhouse drama; it's a film dedicated to expressing its message.

October 11, 2012 Full Review Source:

Melodrama built on a shallow, contrived literary device.

October 8, 2012 Full Review Source:

Literary soapie The Words is mutton dressed as bespectacled lamb.

October 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Quickflix

A fable and a lesson, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable one, delivered with masterful performances and a great sense of storytelling tradition

October 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

A wonderful screenplay in which three stories are skilfully interwoven to deliver a rich and satisfying film that questions integrity above all else

October 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Maybe it's the timing of the release, coming at the dead zone of post-summer and pre-fall cinematic fare..but 'The Words' has enough going for it to be recommended.

October 5, 2012 Full Review Source: Spectrum (St. George, Utah)
Spectrum (St. George, Utah)

A dreadful misfire, particularly for Cooper, who is otherwise pursuing an interesting career trajectory away from The Hangover series.

October 5, 2012 Full Review Source: The National
The National

Despite an exposition-heavy outer layer, The Words delivers on 2/3 threads that it presents and offers a somewhat evocative meditation on truth.

September 27, 2012 Full Review Source: ScreenRant

One of the meatiest movies of the year ...

September 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Sacramento News & Review | Comment (1)
Sacramento News & Review

Things get confusing whenever Quaid appears as the audience is never sure if he is the real bogus author or if Cooper even exists.

September 21, 2012 Full Review Source: MediaMikes | Comment (1)

Audience Reviews for The Words

The ability to write should be first among the qualifications required to write a movie about a writer... but all through this film, all I could think was, "No one involved with this film has ever written anything!" And the attempt to lean on narration - it's like the book you're reading! - falls completely flat, as it's never quite clear who is supposed to be narrating, or (of course) who would read a book were it this badly written. I'd recommend You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger well before this one, which has a similar plot but comes from Woody Allen, who may have written a thing or two before the present movie.

I really like the premise, and the talented cast does its best with this disastrous script, but unfortunately The Words is much more about the idea of being a writer than it is a believable story of anything a writer might think/want/do.
December 29, 2013

Super Reviewer

There is really nothing that works in this convoluted, nonsensical and terribly written drama where not even the visuals escape the artificial and clichť. Everything is a total failure, from the expository narration to the ridiculous story-within-a-story-within-a-story structure.
July 25, 2013

Super Reviewer

People didn't like this much. Why?..because of the story, inside of a story, and partly inside another story? or because of the ending that left you wondering what was really true? I found this movie mesmerizing. There isn't one bad actor in this, that is for sure. The story was heartbreaking, and intriguing. It was beautifully done, and left me with a feeling of awe. Usually, endings like this one make me really mad. For some reason, this ending seemed to fit the movie...
March 14, 2013

Super Reviewer

The Words story within a story within a story structure takes away any dramatic impact the film might have had. The performances are actually pretty good, especially Jeremy Irons and Bradley Cooper, but the script tries to be more complex and interesting than it needs to be. The story holds your attention from the beginning, but the more things are revealed the less interesting the story becomes by the end of it. Olivia Wilde's character could have been cut entirely because it is just a poor character with no motivations at all. The Words has some interesting points to make, including living with the choices we make and how no one can help you live with those choices except yourself, where writers draw the line between fiction and real life, and how hard it is to get a book published in these harsh economic times. All these interesting points are drowned out by a poor ending, though. The script just tries a little too hard to cram too many plot elements into an otherwise very interesting, engaging, and well acted story for the first 3/4 of the film. I'm torn because The Words really kept me engaged and wondering what was going to happen next, like any good thriller can, but botches it trying to get to the end. I can't quite recommend it, but it is certainly an interesting misfire.
January 12, 2013

Super Reviewer

    1. The Old Man: We all make difficult choices in life. The hard thing is to live with them.
    – Submitted by ?????? ? (15 months ago)
    1. The Old Man: Was he a writer? [in reference to Hemingway]
    – Submitted by Ron S (15 months ago)
    1. The Old Man: We all make choices. The hard thing is to live with them, and there ain't nobody that can help you with that.
    – Submitted by Cezar P (16 months ago)
    1. Dora Jansen: We don't have any money.
    – Submitted by Mikey W (18 months ago)
    1. The Old Man: We all make difficult choices in life. The hard thing is to live with them.
    – Submitted by Jamie B (19 months ago)
    1. The Old Man: Don't bullshit an old bullshiter.
    – Submitted by Gisel D (19 months ago)
View all quotes (9)

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Latest News on The Words

September 7, 2012:
Critics Consensus: The Words Doesn't Know What To Say
This week at the movies, we?ve got a literary fraud (The Words, starring Bradley Cooper and ZoŽ...
September 6, 2012:
Rotten Tomatoes Radio: Episode 14
For episode 14, we'll be talking about the scores for The Cold Light of Day, The Words, and the...
September 6, 2012:
Total Recall: Liars, Hoaxers, and Frauds
In this weekend's The Words, Bradley Cooper plays a struggling young writer who stumbles across a...

Foreign Titles

  • Der Dieb der Worte (DE)
  • El ladrůn de palabras (ES)
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