Sep. 05, 2012 - Issue #881: Sex 2012
The WordsOpens Friday
Directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal
Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) dreams of being a successful writer, but transforming his dream into reality is turning out to involve a frustrating string of rejection. Publishers compliment his work, enthusing that he has a gift. However, there's always the inevitable "but" that follows, leading to another blow. The publishing industry is a tough business, and no one's willing to take a chance on the unknown writer.
During their sickeningly sweet honeymoon in Paris, Jansen's wife Dora (Zoey Saldana) buys him a weathered old satchel from an antique shop. Back home in New York, Jansen discovers it holds an unsigned story of an American man who knew great love and great tragedy who was posted in Paris after D-Day during Second World War. It's better than anything Jansen has ever written himself, and he begins to copy the words on his computer, with no intent of claiming them as his own. However, things change drastically when his wife finds the typed manuscript on Rory's computer and insists it needs to be read by a publisher. The story, which he calls The Window Tears for no apparent reason, turns out to be the break Rory needed, and he's the darling of the media industry, with no one the wiser of the fact that the words belong to someone else. All seems to be well—until he meets the man who wrote them.
To throw in another curveball, Rory's story is being narrated by renowned author Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid), one of the only "real" characters in the plot. His narration of Rory's life spinning out of control is being told to an audience of admirers at a reading of his new novel, The Words. A young grad student named Danielle (Olivia Wilde), is a stereotypical literary groupie of sorts, and during an inevitable attempt to seduce Hammond, she demands to know the rest of Rory's story, and the decisions he made. The exchange between Wilde and Quaid raises interesting questions on the ethics of what Rory did and the way Quaid's character resolved the rest of the plot. Quaid draws thought-provoking comparisons to the fine line between fiction and reality, but the whole thing seems to be cut short, snapping back into the story of Rory and his wife, which leads to a rather abrupt ending, leaving many questions lingering. That may be the point: for the viewer to deduce their own conclusions, but its also unsatisfying in regards to a film.
As if one narrated story within a film wasn't enough, The Old Man (Jeremy Irons), who for reasons unknown has no other name, recounts his story to Rory, with live action accompaniment done in somewhat cliched, grainy fashion, but a captivating tale nonetheless. It's a film that demands attention, however, it misses the mark in several regards. The female characters: Rory's wife, Danielle and The Old Man's wife Celia (Nora Arnezeder) come off as one-dimensional, as each are defined by their roles with their respective partners. Wilde's acting chops are particularly underused in her role.
Admittedly, it's a nice change of pace to see Cooper take on a deeper role than those of his Hangover franchise's fame, and he even steps behind the scenes as executive producer. Cooper is passable as Rory as he runs the gamut of emotions, but at times his performance feels forced and he is outshone by his male co-stars, particularly Irons. The Old Man is an engaging character who draws viewers into his story, engrossing them in his past and what it means for his future. As he says at one point in the film, which can be a cautionary statement in many situations, stolen book or not, "We all make choices in life, the hard thing is to live with them."
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