The Words (2012) directed/written by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. Starring Bradley Cooper, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana and Jeremy Irons.
Synopsis: This tells the story of Rory Jansen (Cooper), a struggling unpublished author who finds an old manuscript in a bag his wife Dora (Saldana) buys him in Paris. He falls in love with it, and curious to know how the words feel flowing through him, he rewrites the story word for word on his computer. After his wife reads the story mistaking it for Roy’s own work, she urges him to show it to somebody. Trying to tell his wife the truth, he finally gives up and submits it to his boss. Months later he forgets all about the story until one day his boss calls him into his office saying it was a great story. Before he knows it he is the toast of the literary world, and has finally made something of himself. One day as he reads on a bench, he is accompanied by an old man (Irons). After a while, Irons confesses it was his book he lost all of those years ago, which results in some interesting repercussions.
This story has an interesting narrative structure. It begins with successful novelist Clay Hammond (Quaid) telling Jansen’s story at a recital, and as we progress the viewer also witnesses the telling of the old man’s story too. Thus, this is essentially a collection of three stories in one: Clay’s, Jansen’s and the old man’s. In a number of ways, this feels like a love letter to the novel with mentions of Hemingway and the writing process at various points. As a result, the story is filled with metafiction. It also seems to make a statement that passion and inspiration could be all that is needed the write the next great novel. This does, however, seem like it could be a bit naive, as discipline and working at the craft are just as important. At one point, we see that the old man writes the novel in two weeks due to this need to get it out.
I did like Rory as a character, and felt that this lie spiralled out of control very quickly although he started with the best of intentions. When the old man is telling him about his story, Rory is captivated – like that of a child listening to a great story from a parent. This could be making a statement on the importance of stories as a whole. This is also a morality tale, as Rory does pay the ultimate prize for plagiarising somebody else’s work – the inability to really live with himself.
I am glad Cooper agreed to do this movie; keeping true to the promise he made to the writer/directors of this film many years ago. Cooper puts in a good performance, but I was simply captivated by Jeremy Iron’s performance and he really did steal the show. As for Quaid and the rest of the cast, their performances were okay.
Overall, this film will not change anyone’s life but is a decent exploration into the novel, and just how easy it can be for a lie to spiral out of control.
By Robert Spence