The Words

Directed by: Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal

Starring:  Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, Jeremy Irons, Olivia Wilde

I hate to quote the President in a film review, but if I had to give The Words a grade, it would be “Incomplete.”  That is how I felt as the credits rolled, and I daresay most other viewers felt the same way. But I am jumping ahead of myself.  Let’s start at the beginning.

The Words is a story within a story within a story.  Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid) is a renowned writer who is holding a book reading for his new novel.  Hammond’s book is about Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper).  Jansen is an aspiring writer in New York.  He is madly in love with his girlfriend Dora (Zoe Saldana), and they live a simple life in Manhattan.  Dora is a teacher, and Jansen works in the mailroom of a literary agency.  In his spare time, he is trying to write the perfect novel.

Jansen and Dora get married and honeymoon in Paris.  While there, Dora buys Jansen an old worn leather bag that he can use for work.  After the honeymoon is over, Jansen unfortunately has to face some harsh realities.  Although he has shopped his book around to a million different literary agencies, no one is willing to represent him or publish his work.  He is demoralized and coming to the slow realization that maybe he is not a great writer and the dream that he has had for himself may never be fulfilled.  It is during one of these low moments that he discovers an old manuscript in the leather bag he purchased in Paris.  He reads it and is mesmerized by the power of the words.  He wants to feel what it would mean to write something so beautiful, and he types the book on his laptop in a therapeutic frenzy.

Jansen’s wife Dora reads the file on his computer and mistakenly believes that he wrote the novel.  In tears, she begs him to try to publish the book because it is better than anything he has ever written.  Torn between wanting to tell his wife the truth, and wanting to finally know what success feels like, Jansen takes the book to one of the agents at his job.  The agent loves it, and the book is published.  It is a huge success and Jansen becomes the toast of the book world and Manhattan.  All is right with the world until the Old Man (Jeremy Irons) finds Jansen in the park and confronts Jansen about his theft of the Old Man's words and his life.

The Words is at times compelling.  The Old Man played by Jeremy Irons serves as the moral core of the film and Irons is brilliant in his portrayal.  He plays the Old Man in a way that is at once crabby, funny, clever, and sad.  Physically, he not only is aged through make up, but Irons’ hunched shoulders and the way that he carries himself are frankly spot on.   He is so adept at playing the Old Man that I made a mental note to “google” Jeremy Irons’ age to see how old he really is.  Quaid, Cooper and Saldana also turn in solid performances.  Irons simply steals the show.

The issue that I take with The Words is that it felt incomplete.  There are three different stories happening simultaneously: Clayton Hammond, Rory Jansen, and the Old Man.  Fact and fiction blur so much that it is unclear what is true and what is not. That is fine, except the film ends abruptly.  I will not give away the ending.  However, as the credits rolled, it felt like there was so much more of a story to tell and we were just left to draw our own conclusions and write our own ending.  While I enjoy films that make me leave the theater pondering, The Words felt like an unfinished book to me.

The Words earns a .09 rating, and I would recommend drinking A Midsummer Night’s Dream with this one.