Movie Review: “The Words” – A Literary Mystery

Written by Emily McWilliams September 09, 2012

Films about writers can be tricky.   When done properly (like this year’s earlier release of “Ruby Sparks”) they can be insightful, funny, and smart.  When the script falters though, films about writers can come off as serious in an inflated, melodramatic way that leaves the audience bored.  Unfortunately, “The Words” falls into the latter category.  The pseudo-drama mystery features forgettable performances from Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid and Olivia Wilde as they delve into the world of contemporary publishing and try to separate truth from fiction.

What is Truth? What is Fiction?

Rory Jansen (Cooper) and his wife Dora (Saldana) are newlyweds facing financial problems.  Rory is an aspiring writer who has received numerous rejections from the publishing houses.  While vacationing in Paris, Rory discovers a briefcase that contains a manuscript of an unpublished novel.  Realizing that this book is better than anything he could possibly write himself, Rory decides to pass it off as his own work.  The book is an instant success and Rory seems to be living the life he always wanted.  That is, until the original writer of the novel (Irons) confronts him and accuses Rory of not only stealing his words, but his life as well.

These Words Don’t Mean Much

For a film whose topic focuses on the power and beauty of words, the script was overall unremarkable.  Conversations between characters were generic and lacked the appropriate amount of emotion.  Often the scenes between Cooper and Saldana lead to gratuitous making-out that didn’t come off as romantic or authentic and appeared to have been included in an attempt to inject some feeling into the bland script.  Other than providing plot points, the script didn’t offer anything in terms of humour, drama, or contribute to the mystery that seemed to be building around the characters.

A Beautiful Portrayal of the Past

“The Words” is full of rookie mistakes from co-writers and directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal.  However, they do manage to properly create and direct scenes involving the original writing of the novel which take place in 1940’s Paris.  These scenes provide the genuine acting and emotion that was missing throughout most of the movie.  As well, the feeling and atmosphere of post-war France was captured beautifully while telling the story of a young couple falling in love and getting their lives started.

Not a Great Start to Fall

“The Words” makes a disappointing debut to the fall movie season with its attempt at dramatic
filmmaking.   With the fall season comes the releases of the year’s best and most anticipated films, as well as many potential Oscar contenders. It seems that “The Words” will soon be forgotten in the shuffle of period pieces and psychological dramas that are expected in theaters soon.

My Rating: 6/10

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