The Words Reviews
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.
There is a frame story about an author seducing a younger woman that is absolutely senseless and goes nowhere. The story within the story about the plagiarist is also quite senseless. It features the Bradley Cooper character, and Cooper does wrought guilt well, but the supporting characters are boring. Rory's wife's job within the plot is to support and act as his conscience, but she is devoid of any personality and has no life of her own. When the characters lack any individuality and aren't played with any panache, the film has to get its energy from a unique plotline; there are no twists or surprises, so there's nothing unique about the film as a whole.
Overall, Cooper and Jeremy Irons do their best, but I don't think anything could save this poor effort.
I'm a fan of Bradley Cooper, so I go into his movies with positive expectations. He acts just fine, quite well, if I may be so bold. There's even a moment when he almost goes Full Man Cry ala Dawson Leery, but it's just restrained enough that it isn't embarrassing for anyone.
The screenplay itself is surface and stereotypical about the life of writers, and the frame story with Dennis Quaid and Olivia Wilde, is dumb and unnecessary. They were trying to go deeper, but I didn't like Inception either.
Very very good film! The Words is an engaging film, and almost feels more like a book on screen. And like a good book, it quickly reins you in and keeps entertaining until the end. The Words was dumped into theaters on what is historically known as the worst weekend for movie attendance, and most likely won't garner much of an audience. The film will also have trouble living up to the competition come Oscar season, but it delivers an entertaining and appealing film on the first weekend of fall award season releases. The Words is a movie that can only be truly experienced to the max when gone into raw without any knowledge of the storyline. It may seem to be a small and easy concept to grasp, but it is definitely one that will quickly turn into a complex, deep and compelling movie which will grasp you from start to finish. If you are looking for a movie, this is absolutely one that you should see. However, if you are looking for a quick and easy movie, this isn't one I'd go to. Don't choose this unless you willing to see it from start to end. It's a story that can be very easily seen in our own lives and understood in our own individual way. The unexpected twits and turns this story takes you to are ones that will lead to realize that it is much more than just a man with a story and the aftermath.
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 and success above life's most fundamental three words.
I saw an advanced screening of The Words and I was really looking forward to it, for a couple of reasons. First, Bradley Cooper was starring in it. No, it's not just because he is attractive (okay, those eyes get me). Honestly, I have been following his career since his appearance on the television show Alias. Since then he's played a variety of characters from lovable, best friend to out-right ass. I've seen a lot of his films and even reviewed a couple of his more recent ones, The Hangover Part II and Limitless, and he's proved to me he can act.
Second, I do like a story about writing but there does seem to be a ton of films about writers, right? Well, writers are the ones who get a film started - they write the screenplay! Anyway, it's a topic that I find fascinating because I write nearly every day and some days I struggle to get a single word on the page (screen). Most writers can empathize with characters who struggle with their talents. It's sort of in our nature because we have read so many great writers - who probably inspired us to start writing in the first place. But when it comes to liking your own words us writers tend to be our own worst critics. Nonetheless, rejection from the publication world can take out any shred of self-esteem you possess We've all been there.
The Words shows a young writer, Rory Jensen (Bradley Cooper), and how he can't seem to get his first novel published. But he is determined, as many young novelists are and finds a job within a publishing house. A few years pass and he stumbles upon an old manuscript. His choices after that are at the heart of the film. However, the explanation and storytelling (which there are actually three stories in one) is where it fell flat and didn't convince of why certain characters acted the way they did. Overall the story felt pushed and predictable. I really started to get bored about halfway through.
The most disappointing part of the movie was Jeremy Irons. Usually his acting seems flawless and effortless. In The Words, however, it appeared disingenuous. In fact, by about a third of the way through the film I felt the whole story was disingenuous. Bradley Cooper was probably the only actor who I felt did a decent job in his role. Other than that this film lost me; and I saw no real point to most of the character's choices or sometimes even their reason for being in the film. Oh well, hope the next film is better.
My favorite part: Yeah, yeah, it's Bradley Cooper. Although there were some nice set designs/architecture that caught my fancy.
My least favorite part: I know I mentioned not caring for Jeremy Irons but I understood why his character was in the film. However, Olivia Wilde's character left me scratching my head.
Directed by Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal, Animus Films, 2012
Written by Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, Olivia Wilde and Dennis Quaid.
Genre: Drama, Romance
Length: 96 minutes
Review: 3 out of 10
"The Words" is a good look at the randomness of success.(Otherwise, we already knew that writers are a bunch of egotistical bastards.) But unlike a lot of other movies, this should have been longer in giving more depth to some of the characters, especially Dora. Otherwise, the first two acts set up an intriguing story. It's the third act where the movie in trying to answer every conceivable question starts to break down. Now whether that's the movie's fault or Clay's fault is up for debate.(That flirtation with meta weirdness I think saves the movie from itself.) What's not up for debate is Jeremy Irons' weird performance as just past the age of 60 he ironically has no idea how to play an old man. However, I would like to go on the record and say I would pay good money to hear Dennis Quaid read from the phone book.
The above story is actually the plot of Quaid's character's latest acclaimed novel, meaning we get not just a story within a story, but a story within a story within another story, thanks to the flashback sequences which detail the circumstances under which Irons wrote the original novel. The addition of Quaid is a pointless one which adds to the running time unnecessarily. The dilemma Cooper finds himself in is interesting enough but never really gets explored fully. Irons steals the show in his handful of scenes but overall 'The Words' is a bit of a bore.
As I'll go more into later, this film's subject matter is nothing short of highly promising, with intrigue and depth that I'm sure would make for a darn good book, as sure as it would make for a very good film, something that this film isn't, because as strong as the story concept is, experienced writers and debuting directors Brian Klugman's and Lee Sternthal's execution of their vision proves to be underwhelming and problematic, with flaws that all start with exposition, or rather, a lack of exposition, as the film, while reasonably fleshy, feels underdeveloped, failing to tap as deeply as it should into its various story layers. More problematic is the body of the storytelling, which calls more to your attention the limiting of exposition through a degree of heavy-handed hurrying that glosses along this character study that cannot afford to be handled with clumsiness that may not be too intense in this film, but just pronounced enough to take the potential genuineness of the depth and intrigue and craft superficiality. At merely a little over an hour-and-a-half, this film is brief, and too much so, having a story that isn't quite as dynamic and, in concept, considerably lengthy as it appears to be in this film's marketing, but still not taking the time that it should draw from exposition and depth, and deliver on what it needs to, and yet, as heavy-handedly hurried as this film is, a just as towering problem is, of all things, slowness, because although the film is rarely, if ever all-out dull, it blands up and pads out. With all of its hurrying and exposition limitations, the film still finds time to kill time, not exactly making up for time lost by using excess material to fill the holes that would bring this film to its conceptually fitting longer length, but still having many a moment outstay its welcome, to where the film doesn't simply meander, but slips into bland aimlessness. These desperate reaches for length prove to be about as effective as the superficiality and hurrying in emphasizing the minimalism within this film's story concept, which is still worthy, but betrayed by a faulty execution and, of course, its own promises. If nothing else, this film is overambitious, being not necessarily arrogant in its vision, but too desperate and too hopeful to produce something that it doesn't quite have the storytelling chops to produce. Sure, the film's ambitions are understandable, yet they only further pronounces the shortcomings, of which, there aren't quite as many as this Rotten Tomatoes' startingly poor score would have you believe, but enough for this promising tale to sputter out in execution short of what it could have been. Of course, what the final product ultimately is is a film that engages more often than not, not being able to achieve what it should and wants to achieve, but keeping you interested, and doing so with the help of technicality, or at least in some...-a few...-one part.
One of the most overlong points in the film is a segment that is necessary, even with its excessiveness, and that is, of course, Jeremy Irons' "Old Man" characters' flashback to his youth and, by extension, the events leading up to his writing of the book, - whose plagiarization by Bradley Cooper's Rory Jansen character is the central conflict of Dennis Quaid's Clay Hammond character's book, the titular "The Words" (It's a story within a story within a story, or rather, "Storyception") - which is a subplot that may outstay its welcome a bit, but proves to be one of the more engaging sections of the film, not just emotionally, but aesthetically, as production designer Michele Laliberte recreates the '40s and '50s with clever intricacy and believability that sells you on the setting, while Antonio Calvache's cinematography hits its highest marks. For whatever reason, Calvache chooses to really step up his photographic efforts when shooting the beautiful flashback segment, though it's not like the rest of the film is visually bland, for although the film is at its most handsome during the aforementioned flashback segment, which, even then, has its relatively average spots, no moment in the film is less than visually appealing, with depth to definition and lighting that, upon finding a magic occasions, particularly stuns. The film isn't exactly technically and artistically remarkable, having neither the considerable quantity nor immense quality to be all that stunning, but it is aesthetically attractive, even though its primary focus rests within the very substance that goes all too often betrayed in execution. Again, the film's storytelling, while hardly sloppy, could be tighter, with more range and less aimlessness, both of which go into emphasizing natural shortcomings and limitations within this film's story concept, though not so much so that it totally obscures the subject matter's value, which isn't abundant, but strong, with unique structuring ideas that cannot be ignored, even in the final product, and potential depth, weight and livliness that may unfortunately be not much more than unrealized potential, but is potent enough in concept to spark an immediate degree of intrigue that is actually augmented by directors Brian Klugman's and Lee Sternthal's ambition. Klugman and Sternthal betray their story vision with overambition to go along with and emphasize storytelling hiccups, yet the pride in this project is undeniable, even if it is undercut, though most definately to no fault of the performers, because as problematic as the offscreen performances are, it's the oncreen talent that really shines, with the underused Dennis Quaid and Zoe Saldana, and the briefly present Ben Barnes and Nora Arnezeder, being charming and, on occasions, effective when presented with genuine dramatic material, while Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Irons stand out. Cooper has only so much to do dramatically, yet he is consistently charismatic, and when dramatic material does, in fact, come into play, he once again reminds us of his potential by delivering on emotional range that is not simply impressive or compelling, but powerful in its marriage of subtlety and intensity that is much too underused, much like Jeremy Irons, who, upon stepping onto the screen, steals the show, reminding us of his history of being a powerful actor by taking considerably limited material and turning in a nevertheless excellent and exceedingly charismatic performance that subtly and gracefully conveys Irons' "Old Man" character's lifetime of regret, brought more to light by an injustice, with depth and a profound presence that defines Irons' character as a mysterious yet deeply defined human, and one of the more compelling forces in the film. The film has the style and, to a certain degree, acting chops to help in making this film's worthy story concept more worthy, yet narrative is too limp to take off, though not so limp that it completely disengages, as the undeniable ambition and strengths that can be found spark enough intrigue within the film to make it an enjoyable one, even though it could have hit harder.
To close this book... within a book (I'm telling you, man, "Storyception"), a worthy story concept goes betrayed by underdevelopment and heavy-handedness, matched only by, of all things, slow spells that bland and bloat narrative into aimlessness that emphasizes the story concept's natural shortcomings, which go further brought to life by overambition, thus making for a film that falls short of what it could have been and wants to be, but still doesn't fall too far behind, being pushed foward by a handsome visual style - which is, like the production designs, at its sharpest during the 1940s and '50s segment - and story concept whose undeniable uniqueness and conceptul value, complimented by charm within Brian Klugman's and Lee Sternthal's perhaps too ambitious direction, and a myriad of memorable performances, - particularly those of compelling leading man Bradley Cooper and a show-stealing Jeremy Irons - helps in making "The Words" an interesting portrait on the humanity of literature, even with its unrealized potential.
2.5/5 - Fair
The acting, however, is pretty strong throughout, with Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Irons making for an interesting pairing. A lot of the scenes were staged well, with a consistent tone, and a respect for the talents involved. The script, however, never gives them much to work with, with its constant shifts and lack of a coherent through-line. This makes the film seem a bit meandering in that it never seems to quite pull itself together.
The message, that of the past coming back to haunt us, dealing with our limitations, and the fear of inadequacy, I appreciated, and the film certainly had moments in which it conveyed all of these films well. Overall, however, it simply didn't have the narrative to give it the necessary engagement. As such, it fails on a cinematic level, seeming more fitted for a book or even a stage play.
In this PG-13-rated drama, a celebrated novelist (Dennis Quaid) dogged by a persistent student (Olivia Wilde) presents the story of a young writer (Cooper) who sees his literary star rise after having the great American novel published in his name...only he didn't write it and the past (Irons) returns to haunt him.
Here, Cooper headlines an A-List cast that includes Irons, Quaid, Zoe Saldana, Wilde, Ben Barnes, and J.K. Simmons. Granted, in their few scenes together, Irons acts circles around Cooper, but the young star certainly has likability and charisma in spades. His chops help to sell through the high fallutin' concept, which is a multi-layered intersection of separate stories within stories (think: The Hours, but with egomaniacal good-looking novelists and less culpability). The true accolades belong to co-writers and directors Brian Klugman and Sternthal, however. Without The Words, such performances - however well played - would be for naught.
Bottom line: More than Words.