Directed by: Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, Rated: PG-13, 117 minutes
The Plot: “A writer at the peak of his literary success discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man’s work.”
The Words is a very complicated movie to explain. On the surface, it’s about an author named Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) who’s struggling to get his work published. In an antique store in Paris, Jansen comes across an old satchel that just screams “I’m a writer! Buy my story!”. He buys it, takes it home, and discovers that an old manuscript is hiding inside. Rory reads the story, is mesmerized by the words on the pages and publishes it on his own, without changing a thing. Book gets him famous, money and attention come pouring in, and an old man (Jeremy Irons) approaches him, telling him that the story is, in fact, his.
That’s the most linear of the stories, as The Words gets all sorts of complicated with story inside story about another story popping up everywhere. Either way, each tale grabs hold of your attention and you get invested in each of them. Unfortunately, however, the film plays out more like story-time before bed than it does anything else, and you’re never given enough time to really invest in the characters. Everything jumps around way too often and before you can find sympathy for a particular person, we’re listening to another story about another person in a different time. It’s complicated for no reason, but to have different actors retelling certain events, and really takes away from it all. For instance, the entire plot-line following Dennis Quaid’s character is completely point less, and only thrown in to raise more questions come the end of the film. Also, The Words is only 117 minutes long, so packing four different stories into that run-time is only asking for disaster. Had the film been trimmed a bit, The Words easily could have been one of the stronger movies of the year. Unfortunately, it’s over-eagerness bogs it down to average territory. It’s also incredibly predictable.
The Players: Bradley Cooper, Dennis Quaid, Jeremy Irons, Ben Barnes, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, J.K Simmons
Bradley Cooper continues to improve his acting in The Words. After 2011′s Limitless, the man seems to be taking the reins of his own career and taking it in the right direction. Unfortunately, Rory Jensen is too shallow of a character to give Cooper any running room and his performance is solid, sure, but easily could have been given by dozens of other actors. The supporting cast is decent as well, with everyone delivering average performances, none of them really rising to the occasions more than the other. Cooper and Zoe Saldana have tepid chemistry, at best, and their love story is more included to parallel that of others included. The standout performance is from Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian), who plays the young man talked about in the book central to the film’s plot. I’ve always been a fan of him and seeing him in something with more substance is exciting.
The Style: A story in a story about a story in a story (we have to go deeper!)
As I mentioned in the bit about the plot up top, everything is far too complicated (not confusing, just messy). When it comes to the style, each different story feels like it was directed by a different person, with a different colored lens on the camera. Cooper’s arc is a bit gritter, Quaid’s more clean, and Barnes’ is made up to look like something from the past. It’s heavy on the lighting and antiquated enough to feel like it’s from a time not today, but is heavily forced to give you that feeling. A simple telling that it’s in the past (which it does) would have been more than enough.
The Sound: Composer: Marcelo Zarvos. Nothing memorable and very generic
Composer Marcelo Zarvos does as decent of a job at the score as the actors do in their performances. It’s not awful, by any means, nor is it something you wouldn’t want to listen to on a lazy afternoon. The problem is that the score is generic and sounds like everything you’ve heard before, be it in The Notebook, or anything else from Nicholas Sparks. It fits the story well, but doesn’t escalate the drama to another level like other films.
Worth a rent, but don’t go seeking it out