Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Words

The Words, written and directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, is a mess almost from the moment a novelist named Clay Hammond (a stiff-looking Dennis Quaid) opens his latest work (also called The Words) and begins to read to a packed and appreciative audience. Clay's book is the story of another writer, Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), whose chance discovery of an old manuscript while on honeymoon in Paris provides a ticket to success at the expense of his soul. Rory passes the manuscript off as his own after his wife Dora (a lively and soulful Zoe Saldana) praises the book; she doesn't know he didn't write it and think Rory has made a breakthrough. Just after Rory becomes a media darling, a character known only as the Old Man (played at different ages by Jeremy Irons and Ben Barnes) arrives to set Rory and the audience straight. Meanwhile in the "real" world of The Words Clay becomes attracted to a fan (Olivia Wilde) who seems a little too interested in the origins of Clay's new bestseller.

 All creative work in The Words is performed in gushes of inspiration. The manuscript at the center of the story is written at a furious pace by the Old Man after a tragedy, while Rory (who has completed but failed to publish two novels) is most active when he's copying someone else's words. There's no sense of the daily work and process of writing, not that being a novelist is an easy job to portray on film. Little moments feel false too; Hammond reads an enormous chunk of his book, flirts with Wilde over wine, and then goes back on stage for round two? I don't think so. There's some point to be made about the ownership of one's story, or about the way artists make their own truth, but it's either too subtly laid in or not followed through on and the movie never takes off. The Words shouldn't have made it out of a studio slush pile.

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

The cast does their whole best to make everything work and in ways, they succeed, but I think the script and premise was just a bit too tricky for its own good. Nice review Simon.