How does one find the words to discuss the film, The Words? This is a tricky one to talk about, as the good and bad cancel each other out to equal my least favorite of all emotions when it comes to entertainment, the dreaded “MEH.”
Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana star as Rory and Dora, a young (and ungodly beautiful) couple trying to make ends meet in NYC, while Rory fulfills his dream of becoming a published author. This is no easy task, and the strain takes its toll on them both. Dora is crazy supportive though, and before long, they get married. They shoot off to Paris for a honeymoon (despite the fact that narrator Dennis Quaid – in a moment that perfectly exemplifies where this flick fails – just finished explaining how poor these two are), where Dora finds this gorgeous old leather case that she buys for her new husband as a kind of wedding present. Some time later, back at home, Rory discovers a weathered-looking, typed manuscript in one of the folds of the case, clearly overlooked by Dora and the shop owner who sold it to her. This film’s greatest success lies right here, in these moments of wonder and discovery wherein Rory, the writer struggling tirelessly to find his voice, to come into his own and gain success at his chosen craft, becomes so captivated by this hidden work that he decides to preserve it by typing it all out on his computer. At this point, his intentions are only to see in on the screen and to keep it from being lost again. A day or two later, he enters his apartment to find an emotional Dora who showers him with praise for the beautiful work she saw on his computer and read without his permission but it was so compelling she couldn’t help herself and finally! it’s the kind of story she always knew he had in him, the depth and beauty she never doubted was there and now he finally released it onto the page! Rory begins to contradict her, to explain that the work isn’t his, but who can resist such ardent enthusiasm? In a moment of profound weakness, Rory allows her to believe the story is his.
Dora eventually convinces Rory to submit it to his publisher and he foolishly gives in. Somehow, Bradley Cooper and directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal manage to convey Rory’s insecurity and doubt, his being swept away in the search for recognition and success. Because he isn’t just some schmuck who steals someone else’s work and passes it off as his own. Yes, he does present this work by an unknown author as his story and he does gain tremendous success from it but his drive for doing so – his longing for the success he never reached on his own and the years of relentless hard work without reward somehow make it seem understandable. That is, until the day an older gentleman approaches him in the park and begins to tell him a story, his story, in fact, that so closely resembles the one Rory printed and published and for which, he is now famous.
Jeremy Irons plays the nameless old man whose work is ripped off and he is such a captivating presence on screen, Cooper’s performance suffers by comparison. Anyone who has seen Silver Linings Playbook knows that Bradley Cooper is capable of truly great acting but in The Words, he doesn’t quite deliver. The real defect of the movie, however, lies in the third layer of this story, the one containing the narrator. Remember the narrator? The famous, adored present-day author Clay Hammonds (Quaid) tells us Rory’s story and it quickly becomes obvious that Hammonds is the real-life Rory, telling his story to a star-struck lit student, Daniella (Olivia Wilde), making this a story within a story within a story, which sounds so much more interesting than it is. It would have been leaps and bounds more enjoyable without the Quaid-Wilde layer, which added nothing to the story itself and whose scenes felt like filler, a useless distraction.
The Words isn’t a total waste of time; it’s just one of many films that aims higher than its reach. Much like its leading character, it wants and strives for a level of greatness that simply isn’t there.
~Annie & Nikki