No matter how much one loves film and loves to write about them there is always that passion for the writing aspect that comes first. There is just something to the process of it that is fascinating and we love to see that at work on screen. Or at least, I do. I have always imagined myself as a writer first even if that is not what you would call my official profession. Still, it informs everything I do and can certainly tell you a lot about me or someone who feels that same way about themselves. I also happen to love movies. Not just watching them, but dissecting them and learning about their motivations, why they were made, and what they mean to different people. They can be such a fascinating art form and I think we forget that sometimes. Thus, I couldn't help but to start writing about film. I do this not for any other reason that the fact I get pleasure out of it, a sense of gratification that I am actually contributing in some way. A way that has nothing to do with a sense of responsibility. This is not an article about me though, this is a film review of the latest film starring Bradley Cooper and a host of other recognizable faces who tell the story of a man who aspires to be what he has always thought himself to be. A man facing certain truths that he doesn't want to confront and a man who has to deal with a decision that he made to fulfill those dreams of his childhood that were made impossible by adulthood while stealing from him that sense of accomplishment. This film is The Words and it is about a writer. I'm a sucker for movies about writers, and this one sucked me in from the very beginning.

Author Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) and new friend
Daniella (Olivia Wilde) speak with a fan.
The main issue with The Words though is in fact the story so many writers are trying to tell. This is a multi-layered affair that would have benefited extremely from taking a few away. It isn't a fact that bothered me to the point I disliked the film, if anything what most people will complain about is the lack of a definitive ending, but there was something quietly poetic about the whole thing. We start with Dennis Quaid as Clay Hammond, an accomplished writer at a reading of his latest work. He tells the story that is at the center of the film and that story eventually gets around to telling the story of the story that Cooper's Rory Jansen steals and claims as his own novel. Sound a little confusing? It's not really. We hardly see Quaid's character and when we do he is interacting with a much younger college student (an underused Olivia Wilde) who is used as a plot device to extract the vague truth about the book he just finished reading to a room full of people that creates the countless conclusions moviegoers will discuss and come to about the ending. His is the layer that could have been completely removed from the film without losing much of the impact while probably making more audiences happy about that conclusion. What this character does serve to do though is add a bit of ambiguity to the mix. How distinct is the line between real life and fiction? The heart of the story truly is Cooper and his lovely wife Dora (Zoe Saldana), a young couple who live in New York and as we all do, are struggling to find their place in the world, in their own lives. Cooper's Jansen has been given the opportunity to write as a full time profession but has been unable to turn it into a successful career. We believe he is a good enough writer, but what he writes we are told would be difficult to market. Why? It is never explained, we just know what he does end up getting published is much better. Such a piece of the character I was disappointed did not come through in a story that revolves around him being a writer. We are told his style is internal, yet we never get a glimpse of the real Rory it seems.

Dora (Zoe Saldana) and her new husband Rory
(Bradley Cooper) find an old briefcase in Paris.
There has to be a bigger point to the film to drive the story forward though and so when Rory discovers an old manuscript in a briefcase Dora bought for him on their honeymoon in Paris he is taken aback by the story it holds. To know what it feels like for such a different kind of storytelling, such distinctive words (so we are told, we never really get a glimpse at the magic others are reading on the page) to cross through his mind he goes through with copying it onto his laptop. Dora sees it, loves it, thinks he should show it to a publisher and he can't help but to feel like a winner for once and so he does. The book is published and in this world is a huge success. Naturally, there will be consequences, but Rory doesn't ever imagine they will hit so close to home. So when an old man interrupts him on a park bench and provides more than enough proof (we get the old mans life story in flasbacks starring Prince Caspian himself Ben Barnes) Rory comes face to face with the full effect of what he's done. The story within a story within a story format doesn't mesh as well as I would have liked it to and the actual writing never comes off with a credible flair, but first time director and close friend of Cooper Brian Klugman succeeds in not allowing his story to go where it very easily could have. This doesn't turn into a battle over authorship or any type of revenge tale but instead it is about the ripple effect that one persons choice can have on the lives of so many others. In that way, and with such a good cast, the film is elevated above what my expectations held for it.  Still, as the credits rolled I felt the film had only scratched the surface on the what it could dig through and bring to the surface about such a strong subject as consequence. The conflict takes a little too long to come up and is never truly resolved yet I was still happy with the film even if I didn't find it completely satisfying.

Rory attempts to make what he has done right with the
old man (Jeremy Irons) who actually wrote the book he
took credit for.
There is a film every now and then that I will enjoy much more and see more merit in than the critics ever give it credit for. This seems to be one of those as it has been criticized for having too many plotlines going with no concrete connection or the fact that so little was done with so much. I can certainly see where they are coming from as I obviously have a few qualms with the film myself. Naturally, the premise is engaging but my biggest qualm, as I mentioned earlier, is the lack of the process in which a writer writes being better documented on screen. There are excerpts, especially in the flashbacks where we see the way an author receives motivation or lack thereof and how it can affect their writing. At the same time it is when that idea hits where does one go from there? At the inception of an idea there must be a spark and we see that when Jeremy Irons is on screen. We never learn his name, we just know him as the old man, but Irons has a voice like no other and he relays the heartbreak of his circumstances and how they led to such inspiration. It doesn't address the process his mind goes through in some artistic or innovative way, but it shows us why he needed to write and in the end that seemed to be good enough for me. Irons is a powerful presence that is really the only actor in the film that is able to stretch what he is given and turn it into something more than the type of melodramatic material the others are dealing with. Though Cooper, Saldana, Quaid, and Wilde are all good enough talents to raise their somewhat standard words to a level where they at least sound charming and Barnes does some impressive work with hardly any dialogue it is Irons who, as his character should have been, we will remember most.



  1. The cast does their whole best to make everything work and in ways, they succeed, but I think the script and premise was just a bit too tricky for its own good. Nice review Vandy.

  2. Definitely. It was trying to do too much and could have cut Quaid and Wilde's storyline while adding that layer they provided in a better way. Enjoyed it more than expected though.