CliqueClack Flicks

The Words – Pretentious, but partially decent

The Words - Theater Review
Release Date: 09/07/2012 - MPAA Rating: PG-13
Clacker Rating: 3 Clacks

'The Words' tries to get clever with an extended metaphor about fiction versus life and doesn't really get there.

Here’s an idea for a new movie — imagine a character in a book that’s reading a book about a character writing a book about a character realizing he’s in a movie. Too confusing? Not confusing enough? Both? But I bet it really makes you think about the thin line between fiction and reality, doesn’t it? No?

Well, this movie doesn’t really either.

The Words begins with the frame of successful author Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) reading excerpts from his latest novel also called “The Words” (is that symbolism or just stupidity?) to a rapt audience, including young student Daniella (Olivia Wilde). But wait, wait, stop getting invested in that nonsense, we have to tell the story of the book instead! While we hear unnecessary narration from Clay, we see what amounts to more like an actual movie as we meet struggling writer Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), living with his young wife Dora (Zoe Saldana). If you’re thinking that there’s symbolism in those names, there is! And if you haven’t immediately guessed what, you’re just a plebeian fool, aren’t you? I think I’m one of those fools.

Rory has written a beautiful novel that is too difficult to publish, so he begins to despair of it. And after he’s given up, he stumbles across a mysterious manuscript while on his honeymoon in Paris. A book that was never published — a lost work that is orders of magnitude better than his own stories (and also the other stories in the movie). But who’s the old man (Jeremy Irons in makeup) watching all this? And what about the story of the mysterious book, and its protagonist? As to be expected, we dive into another story, with young unnamed man (Ben Barnes) in post WW2 France, about his own dramatic tale. This particular sub-sub-story is actually the best of all of them. But hold on a second!

Instead of that interesting sub-story and the somewhat interesting tale of plagiarism and intent, we need some more meaningless nonsense and pablum with Clay and Daniella again. Because we need the themes of the movie explicitly spelled out very obviously, played out over mild clever insinuations and boring romance. How does it all end? Does it matter? Well, that’s another theme: What’s the point, anyway? The outer frame of Clay is ultimately without purpose or usefulness. We learn nothing of import and it seems almost like a last minute addition to the movie. There are actually affecting acting performances here, especially from Jeremy Irons and Ben Barnes, with Bradley Cooper doing alright and J. K. Simmons having an always welcome minor role as his father. But then the movie just tries to be too clever, and it loses you.

It’s too bad that there’s an actually interesting movie here inside a stupid one.

Photo Credit: CBS Films

One Response to “The Words – Pretentious, but partially decent”

September 10, 2012 at 2:09 PM

Sounds nearly as confusing as Cloud Atlas.

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