In a country that obsesses over poorly written fan fiction, and places crudely constructed pieces of “writing” at the top of our “must-read” lists, a movie that focuses on the art of writing seems a bit misguided and socially irrelevant. Still, English majors such as myself find the idea a bit romantic, though not necessarily the most realistic. The Words is such a film, but what seems like a somewhat intriguing premise unfortunately becomes a scrambled mess of misdirected plot structure and mismatched acting talent. The layered story attempts to make the audience think, but instead of achieving the mind-boggling in an Inception kind of way, a serious issue of disconnect leaves the audience incredibly puzzled.
What make this movie so confusing are the misleading trailers, which only tell part of the story. Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) is an aspiring young writer, and while he is certain that his work is a true piece of literary magic, the publishers he attempts to work with don’t seem to think so. His girlfriend Dora (Zoe Saldana) is a source of support for him, but as the months pass, the rejection letters pile up, and so do the bills. Rory’s discouragement is furthered when he must ask his father (J.K. Simmons) for money. His father suggests that his writing should be a side job, and that Rory should be focused on providing for Dora and their future family.
Soon, Rory and Dora marry, and they honeymoon in Paris. A quick stop in an antique shop produces an item that Dora insists on buying for Rory. An unspecified amount of time goes by. One day, Rory tries to put a few documents in to the bag that Dora bought him, only to find a folder filled with a typewritten book. Rory cannot put the book down, and upon reading it, becomes consumed with the story. He cannot escape the words, the characters, and the emotion, and one night he decides to type up the story. Such he does, word for word, and when Dora finds the story and tearfully exclaims her approval and pushes Rory to submit the story to a publisher, Rory doesn’t know how to explain that the story isn’t his.
Rory’s book, titled “The Window Tears,” skyrockets to the top of the best seller list, and earns critical acclaim from the public and scholars alike. His secret is safe, that is until the fateful day when the old man approaches him in the park.
What follows is beautifully filmed, and wonderfully acted. Between the old man’s (Jeremy Irons) recollections and the interaction between the characters, the next few scenes are without doubt the best part of the entire movie. Unfortunately, this fantastic portion of the movie is interrupted by a third story line, the layer of the story that causes the ultimate confusion. In this plot line, Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid), well-renowned author, is reading from his new book “The Words,” in which he tells the story of Rory Jansen.
Not only does this story line add another layer of, “so wait, what is going on?”, it adds seemingly irrelevant interactions that take away from the (in my opinion) better parts of the story. For example, young graduate student Daniella’s (Olivia Wilde) apparent attempt at seducing the significantly older Hammond comes off as an awkward afterthought.
What worked in this movie was a good majority of the acting. Star Bradley Cooper delivers a truly wonderful performance, and does a surprisingly good job in the more dramatic role. Zoe Saldana is a vision, and her screen work is successful, as usual. Jeremy Irons receives my vote for best performance in this film, followed closely by his character’s young counterpart, Ben Barnes.
Unfortunately, everything surrounding Dennis Quaid’s character and story line is what brought this film down a few notches for me. Had this part of the story been omitted from the film, this could have easily been an 8.5 or 9 out of 10 for me; however, this entire portion of the film really undermined the fantastic foundation that had been previously laid.
I really wish that I had better things to say about the movie as a whole. Quite honestly, better writing could have eliminated a large part of the issue, and that seems to be a trend in many films I have seen lately. Still, don’t take this off your list of movies to see. Although their are definitive flaws, I think it’s still deserving of a watch.
The Words – 7/10