Better in Print
Film Review: THE WORDS
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012
Updated: Saturday, September 8, 2012 14:09
A steady drama made to compel you into questioning morality and reality versus fiction, “THE WORDS” falls short, stumbling over its efforts to tackle too many deep philosophical issues simultaneously. While enjoyable until the last fifteen minutes, at which point the story completely derails into something confusing at best, the film never wraps up its own plot or characters and leaves the viewer wondering what just happened – and not in a good way.
“THE WORDS” is about Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) who, trying to please his beautiful wife Dora (Zoe Saldana) and prove to himself that he is the man he thinks he is, decides to try to publish a work that he copied word-for-word from the lost story of someone else. After fame has settled comfortably upon the previously failed writer, an Old Man (Jeremy Irons) claims the original work as his own. In a twist upon the cliché, the Old Man wants no money or recognition. He wants only to share the rest of the story. It is Rory's conscience which creates the fear and doubt in his life. This torment becomes the main focus of the film; the costs of his decision to steal another's work. Meanwhile, Clay (Dennis Quaid) and Daniella (Olivia Wilde) meet and discuss Clay's book, which is about Rory, in what is clearly meant to be a different time line.
Floundering somewhere between thriller and drama, the film never gains enough tension to be gripping yet never reaches the appropriate emotional depths to be a true, quality drama. Instead, it endeavors to craft an intricate tale of self-destruction only to have the result get lost along the way. Co-writers and directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal lay the foundation for a unique and delicate look at plagiarism throughout the film only to steamroll everything near the conclusion in a failed attempt to leave the audience reflecting on their own experiences.
Ben Barnes gives the most believable performance as the emotionally wrecked Young Man, the compliment to Irons' Old Man. While Saldana and Cooper display fantastic chemistry and never fall flat, they are not enough to prevent Quaid and Wilde's mediocre acting and unnecessary side-plot from dragging the film down and distracting from the otherwise enjoyable storyline.
This film would likely have benefited from more of its 96 minutes being left on the cutting room floor. While the story felt fuller than its average run time, the scenes were awkwardly clipped together between the two time lines and one cannot help but pity those characters in the Old Man's story (such as the Young Man) who were assembled in disjointed and less than generous segments despite being the strength of the film's core and almost its entire heart.
To say that “THE WORDS” is a terrible film would be too harsh, but it certainly would not be the first recommendation for what is out and available in theaters. If you want to look sensitive and intellectual to your better half, want to stare at Bradley Cooper, or are in desperate need of a good conversation starter (because you will be puzzling this one out for ages), then maybe “THE WORDS” is for you. Maybe.