- Running time:
- 96 minutes
- Bradley Cooper -
- Jeremy Irons -
- The Old Man
- Dennis Quaid -
- Clay Hammond
- Olivia Wilde -
- Zoë Saldana -
In The Words, Bradley Cooper plays a man who longs to be a writer, but may not have what it takes.
An early novel is rejected by a publisher on the grounds that it's "too artistic and subtle."
The same accusation could never be made of the film (** out of four; rated PG-13; opens Friday nationwide).
Writer/directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal chose to make The Words as bland and obvious as its title, wringing out any subtlety or artistry.
Cooper plays Rory Jansen, a man hellbent on being an author. When that doesn't seem to be happening, he grows increasingly despondent, despite the supportive ministrations of his wife, Dora (Zoe Saldana). Then he happens on a yellowed manuscript tucked away in a satchel Dora bought for him while they honeymooned in Paris.
The commercials and trailer have already given away that Cooper's character is a literary scoundrel, a poser who steals another writer's words. So what is there left for the movie to reveal?
As the tale unwinds, dialogue is clichéd, the musical score overpowers, and moments meant to be surprises are either telegraphed or overplayed, as if the filmmakers didn't trust the audience to get it.
Oh, we get it. Though the characters are rather obtuse.
Rory somehow never notices an old man in a hat and trench coat lurking near him at a climactic point, following him on a city bus, then walking a few steps behind him and finally sitting next to him on a bench in a park. For a writer, he's not very observant.
Some of the film takes place in the 1940s, another segment in the present and another in the very recent past. Or is it that some is in the present and another part in the not-too-distant future? It's never quite clear. But the convoluted timeline is only one of the film's shortcomings. The concept would have worked better if there was a real element of mystery.
Jeremy Irons, as the man who wrote the manuscript, conveys regret, but not much more. If the audience is meant to be deeply invested in his saga, why didn't the screenwriters bother to give him a name other than "the old man"?
While The Words does hint at the insecurity of writers everywhere, it's not clear why this tale of fraud could not have been more straightforward.
Cooper is given little to do but brood. He and Saldana have a modicum of chemistry, but no one shines, mostly due to the plodding material.
Annoying voice-over narration is layered in throughout by Dennis Quaid in a smarmy role as celebrated author Clay Hammond. His story line as an arrogant writer who romances the much younger Columbia grad student Daniella (Olivia Wilde) is the least compelling and most mired in atrocious banter. She proclaims herself to be "young, spoiled, impetuous and American."
Ironically, the dialogue in The Words is its chief failing.
Movie theaters and showtimes for The Words in Jackson.
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