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.