The Words may not be as special of a film as it things it is, but there are many aspects which I did like from the multi-level story to some good performances including Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, and especially, Jeremy Irons who deserves far more attention than he’s received. And despite any problems I had with the screenplay itself, I still found the film mostly compelling and at least worth a look if only once.
Sony | Unrated/PG13 – 97/103 min. – $30.99 | December 24, 2012
Directed by: Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal
Writer(s): Brian Klugman & Lee Sternthal (written by)
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana
Theatrical Release Date: September 7, 2012
Features: Featurettes, UltraViolet Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
THE MOVIE – 3.5/5
The Words is one of the more intriguing films to come out in 2012. Now, whether the intrigue is enough that it’s even worth sitting through the entire thing, that’s something else. What I will say is the story is interesting and the film features one great performance while the others were more adequate.
The premise follows many characters, some maybe real, others maybe not, over many decades. It opens with acclaimed author Clay Hammond (DENNIS QUAID) at an event to read passages from his latest novel, “The Words” and as he (briefly) narrates, we get to see the book come to life:
Rory Jansen (BRADLEY COOPER) is an amateur writer but can’t seem to break into the industry receiving one rejection letter after another. Even so, he has the support of his beautiful girlfriend, Dora (ZOE SALDANA), and his successful father (J.K. SIMMONS) who has been keeping his son financially afloat for some time, though his patience has begun to wane. Eventually he and Dora get married and spend their honeymoon in Paris where they wander into an antiques store and an old satchel catches Rory’s eye and Dora buys it for him.
Meanwhile, during a break at the book reading, Clay is approached by the young and vivacious Daniella (OLIVIA WILDE), a big fan of him and his work. As any warm-blooded man would do, they take their deep conversation to a waiting room where she asks questions and Clay gives mostly full and honest answers, though being a fan, she already knew all it already, including the fact that he and his wife were currently separated.
Back to Rory’s storyline, he discovers a story stuck inside the satchel, an incredible, passionate story which touches him and he, nearly without hesitation, retypes everything into the computer, word for word, misspellings included. Unfortunately, while Rory is out of the apartment, Dora discovers this and the novel brought her to tears, especially believing it’s something he had written and she heaps praises upon him, so much it’s hard to tell her the truth. Eventually, the novel is shown to his boss (ZELJKO IVANEK) at the publishing house Rory has been working at for a couple of years and no surprise, he loves it. The book eventually gets published and is an instant hit propelling Rory to the stardom he had always dreamed of (and gets other works that were previously ignored published as well).
And there’s yet another story within the story that is already within the story, set back during World War II about a young soldier (BEN BARNES) who meets the love of his life, Celia (NORA ARNEZEDER). This story recounts their whirlwind romance as well as tragedy leading to him writing the very story Rory discovered and that was lost. Parts of this were in the novel Rory discovered but most was told by an Old Man (JEREMY IRONS), who had tracked down and confronted Rory that he knew the book was plagiarized and in fact was the story of his life.
What effect will this revelation have on Rory and is it a work of fiction or a perhaps autobiographical and is Clay’s story (and in turn retribution for what he had done)? It’s actually an interesting aspect the film presents, though by the time we get to it, I’m not sure how much I cared.
Honestly, The Words is an odd movie, one that somebody can describe as trite or compelling. There’s no doubt it’s a gripping (at least in the beginning and middle), multi-layered story, something we don’t see in cinema today but at the same point, it does get both tedious and melodramatic.
I know Bradley Cooper is not the most popular name for the online folk and while I’ve been a fan of his, this was not his strongest or best performance. He certainly has a few good scenes in the film but when the plot gets more personal, more introspective at what his character had done, it was a bit over-the-top and actually pulled me out.
In terms of the supporting cast, Zoe Saldana continues her rise up to stardom and is alright in the girlfriend role; Olivia Wilde as the driving force is fun but her character is the most one-dimensional; Dennis Quaid is, well, Dennis Quaid. He’s a veteran actor with the task in bringing the entire story together and as such, is successful; finally Jeremy Irons probably gives the strongest performance, though in Irons’ fashion, he doesn’t underplay it. Even so, of them all, he deserved more award recognition than he has (which is, to say, virtually none).
The Words was written and directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal (both making debuts as directors; Sternthal worked on the story for Tron: Legacy) who have been working on this for the better part of a decade trying to bring it to the big screen. So, even though it might not be the most compelling story I felt it was strong enough to keep my attention through the entire running time. Also on the plus side, I did enjoy how the writers layered the story making it stand out from so many other ensemble dramas.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.25/5
Unabridged: A Look Behind the Scenes of The Words (8:30) – This featurette has the usual cast/crew interviews as they talk about the script. The writers/directors unveil the basis for the story and how it went about getting made.
A Gentlemen’s Agreement (1:44) is a short featurette on the promise made by Bradley Cooper to play the lead before his fame and the love he had with the script those years ago.
An Ultraviolet Digital Copy download code is also included.
Previews – Seven Psychopaths, Robot & Frank, Now is Good
VIDEO – 4.0/5
The Words is presented in its original 1.85 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio and for a standard definition release, looks pretty good. There is some standard artifacting or pixilation but the color array is fine and I couldn’t really ask for more.
AUDIO – 3.5/5
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is well balanced through each channel but given this is a mostly dialogue-driven feature, most of the action takes place in the center speaker with the other relegated for the score, ambient noises or off-camera chatter.
OVERALL – 3.25/5
Overall, The Words may not be as special of a film as it things it is, but there are many aspects which I did like from the multi-level story to some good performances including Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, and especially, Jeremy Irons who deserves far more attention than he’s received. And despite any problems I had with the screenplay itself, I still found the film mostly compelling and at least worth a look if only once.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman