Matt’s Review: ‘The Words’ is Poetic, Well Acted, But Lacks a Central FocusBy
The Words may have not received a lot of mainstream publicity, but it features a strong list A-list actors. The film stars Bradley Cooper, the absolute stunning Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Ben Barnes, J.K. Simmons, and Olivia Wilde. Many of the actors involved cited the strong script from the fresh screenwriting and first time directing duo of Lee Sternthal and Brian Klugman as the reasoning behind their participation in this project. I too believe most of the script is a strength of this film, but late in The Words it became a muddled semi-mess.
Cooper stars as Rory Jansen, a struggling writer working to get his work published while trying to make ends meet with the love of his life Dora (Saldana). His manuscripts get recognized as polished and worthy of publication, but unfortunately his work is not marketable. The rejections are discouraging to Rory creatively and force him to take up a mail room job at a publishing house. In a thrift store briefcase Rory finds the manuscript for an unpublished book — and the pages are a work of perfection. Dora finds “Rory’s” newest creation and encourages him to bring the book to a publisher. In an instant the book is a wild success becoming a best seller, garnering critical acclaim, and before Rory knows it he is accepting awards for a book he did not write. With all the fame, the true writer of the book (Irons) discovers his work under Rory’s name. This drama is rich watching Cooper and Jeremy Irons go back and forth on this very heated issue. These exchanges are where we learn of the old man’s life, this is where the second love story unravels — this tragic tale from the old man explains where the fire to write his book came from.
The non-linear storytelling adds an interesting twist to how it all unfolds. The script does a wonderful job at spelling the story out early on, but the last third becomes more than a little convoluted. Dennis Quaid is introduced early, but his role becomes more prominent in final act — his presences adds murkiness to the pool of clarity that was the first two-thirds. The best pieces come from Cooper and Irons’ intertwined tales. Then much later the script shoves a third narrative into the mix — worst of all, it didn’t work. Quaid and Olivia Wilde have too much awkward-ish screen time together. The poorly matched and uninteresting pair sap the energy from the other two poetic love stories in The Words.
This film wrestles with some very strong themes of loss, betrayal, impatience, deception, and most of all, plagiarism. Each of these themes ring true watching a young married couple (Barnes and Nora Arnezeder) cope with their infant son’s death, and a husband lying to his wife, the literary world, and even himself about the truth of the manuscript. The way Jeremy Irons confronts Cooper epitome of being caught red-handed, it’s brilliant cinema. Cooper dealing with this straining poor decision beams from the screen — the profound chemistry between 2011′s “Sexiest Man” and the wildly talented Zoe Saldana brought the emotions of this film to another level. This is the second recent film I absolutely loved Bradley Cooper in (also Limitless).
Despite Sternthal and Klugman’s inexperience as Directors, the pair expresses so much from these stories with their beautiful poetic-like-visuals. Their vision played out onscreen wonderfully, especially through the strength of the cast. The pair definitely can squeeze out drama and string an audience through an interesting tale until the end. Their work needs refinement, but this is a great start for them.
Overall, The Words will make any Bradley Cooper/Zoe Saldana fan very happy — Cooper’s lack of patience for his work to develop and creative ambition overtake the truth even within their marriage, and it’s a joy to watch them fight through it. Even as a secondary love story Barnes and Arnededer have palpable chemistry. These two very dramatic love story-lines work together with perfection, but then Quaid wedges himself in and messes up what could have been a truly great film.
What Should You Do? This definitely isn’t a chick-flick of sorts, just a well thought out drama. If that is something you would appreciate, see it in the theaters.