So my sister wanted to see this movie because Bradley Cooper makes her giggle like a schoolgirl. I went with her because:
1. It may be the last movie we get to see together before I head back to SoCal.
2. It’s about writing.
3. Zoe Saldana has the same effect on me.

The Words

Directed and written by:
Brian Klugman
Lee Sternthal

Bradley Cooper – Rory Jansen
Dennis Quaid – Clay Hammond
Jeremy Irons – The Old Man
Ben Barnes – The Young Old Man
Zoe Saldana – Dora Jansen
J.K. Simmons – Mr. Jansen
Olivia Wilde – Daniella

Country: USA

Language: English

Release Dates:
USA: 27 January 2012 (Sundance Film Festival)
USA: 7 September 2012

USA: PG-13
Canada: PG (Ontario)
IMDb: 6.8/10
Metacritic: 39/100
Netflix: 3.6/5
Rotten Tomatoes: 17% (Rotten)
Common Sense Rating: OK for kids 13+

Bradley Cooper as Rory Jansen

Yes, The Words is a movie about writing, and the consequences of your actions. It was written and directed by the team of Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, and it demonstrates the problem that can sometimes happen when the writer and director are the same person(s): The director can’t tell the writer that he needs to take another pass and fix some of the problems with his screenplay.

Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) is a struggling writer in New York. He knows that he has The Great American Novel inside him, but he just can’t seem to get it on the page. He toils on it night and day in the fancy loft that he shares with his GF Dora (Zoe Saldana). Finally he finishes it, but he can’t get anyone interested, and – partially because he’s living in a fancy loft – he’s running out of money. Rory goes to see his Dad to borrow some money. His Dad, who apparently distributes buttons, writes him a check but tells him that it’s the last one. If he doesn’t succeed he will have to join his father in the cutthroat button business.

So what does our hero do with his daddy’s money? He marries his girlfriend and they go on a honeymoon in Paris. Like you do. He’s lucky that his Dad didn’t send a button man after him, but don’t worry folks, he had to get to Paris because it’s a plot point.

Zoe Saldana and Bradley Cooper making a case against plagiarism.

While Rory and Dora are walking on the very streets where Ernest Hemingway walked, soaking in the Hemingwayness of it all, they stop into an antique store. There Rory falls in love with an old leather briefcase. Dora buys it for him because it will help him to obtain his Hemingwayhood.

Once they’re back home in their fancy loft, Rory starts putting his own mediocre papers in the case when he makes a discovery: In one of the compartments is a very old folder, and in that folder are a bunch of old yellowed typewritten pages. It’s a novel. A brilliant novel that Rory reads with rapture. It contains the thoughts that he wished he could put on paper. It is the novel that he would write if only he was able.

What does one do when presented with this gift? Apparently there is no name on the pages. I don’t think so anyway, the screenplay doesn’t make it clear. There is an ink smudged fingerprint. What should he do? What would you do?

Rory starts writing the words into his laptop, to see how it would feel to have such words flow through him. At this point it might be a good idea to run some of those words through Google or Copyscape to see if anything comes up, but he doesn’t do that, he puts the whole thing in exactly as it was written and leaves it on his laptop. That’s where Dora sees it and tearfully tells him that it’s the writing that she always knew he could do.

Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Irons

So what can a boy do? It’s her fault. “It’s the woman you gave me.” Rory takes it to a publisher and suddenly he’s the toast of the town…until an old man shows up. An old man, played by Jeremy Irons, who lost a briefcase years ago in Paris.

The Words is an intriguing enough tale, and it gets you thinking, especially if – like me – you pretend at being a writer, but it just has too many holes to be truly satisfying. I’ve mentioned the need to get Rory and Dora in Paris in order for him to get the case. Then there’s the fact that the whole story appears to be a story being told by another author (Dennis Quaid) to a young lady that he’s trying to seduce (Olivia Wilde), but his attempts at seduction end up becoming more like a therapy session. The novel within a novel within a screenplay jumps from real present day New York to fake present day New York to fake (or is it?) post war Paris. The old Paris scenes are nicely done, they seem aged like the papers found in the case, but why does the young man who’s supposed to be young Jeremy Irons not have a British accent? It’s a small detail but it grated on me.

At least The Words doesn’t succumb to the dreaded FFS. Remember in Finding Forrester when Forrester/Sean Connery goes to Jamal’s school and reads an essay? Pompous ass F. Murray Abraham practically climbs up Forrester’s kilt, saying “Oh…the power of your words etc. etc.” The problem is that the stuff that Forrester/Connery was reading wasn’t that deep. I call it “Finding Forrester Syndrome” or FFS, it’s when there’s supposed to be this great work of art and then you finally see or hear it and it’s kind of meh. The Words doesn’t do that, you never really see any of this “great novel,” just a few lines on a page here and there.

Everybody does their best with what they’re given. I’m not the Bradley Cooper fan that Iris is, but he’s OK here. Jeremy Irons is always good, and Zoe Saldana gives her all to a role that mainly requires her to cry and say one of three sentences:
1. “I love you.”
2. “I believe in you.”
3. “I hate you, you rat bastard!”

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:

Like I said earlier, the Writer/Director boys should have kept their Writer hats on for a bit longer.


Random Quote Whore Quote:

“The Words is a blinding, insuperable, broncho of a movie! Bradley Cooper is decrescent!!!”

Closing Love Theme:

What else could it be? A song from The Beatles that any aspiring writer can relate to:

Dear Sir or Madam will you read my book
It took me years to write, will you take a look?


2 thoughts on “Movie Review – The Words

  1. Bradley is fine in the lead, but it’s Irons who steals this movie as soon as he has his 15 minutes of fame by the end. He’s easily the best thing about this movie and they sort of treat him like an old-joke. Nice review.

    • Definitely agree. Jeremy Irons is one of those actors who could read the phone book and make it great. “You have no idea.”
      Thanks for reading and commenting, Dan the Man!

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