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MOVIE REVIEW: The Words

The Words could have been a superior award-winning film, but slower pace, twisty ending, or the novice status of the directors keep it from truly transcending into classic status.

Fiction or Life

RATED: ★ ★ ★ out of 5 buckets | WORTH:  DVD or Rental

Rated: PG-13 Smoking and brief strong language

Release Date: September 7, 2012
Runtime:  1 hour 36 minutes

Director: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
Writers: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
Cast:  Dennis Guaid, Jeremy Irons, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Wilde

SYNOPSIS:  When a struggling writer Rory cannot catch a break, a found manuscript propels him to a successful book and awards. When an old man confronts Rory to tell the writer that the words Rory wrote were his, Rory struggles with what to do next.

REVIEW: Writer Brian Klugman Lee Sternthal, writers of Tron: Legacy, step up their game by writing and directing the words they scribed. The writing, and now directing, duo trade the inside of a computer built on written code to the inside of several paralleling stories revolving around the written word.A struggling writer Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper, Limitless) spent three years writing a book. Shopping it around to the literary agents, Rory is eventually contacted and told that although the book is a beautiful work of creative art, there would be no way for the agent to shop this type of work to any publisher from an unknown writer. Rory, already going to his father (J.K. Simmons, Contraband) for financial help, realizes he must make a choice between his fiction and his life. He takes a job at a literary agent office, now able to make ends meet and able to support and marry Dora (Zoe Saldana, Takers). On their honeymoon to Paris, Dora and Rory happen upon an old worn satchel in a second-hand shop that Dora promptly buys for the man she sees so much potential in. Back at home, Rory now has problems writing anything new. One day, he discovers a complete manuscript in the satchel and reads its. Realizing that he will never be the writer of stories that he had just read, Rory is haunted by what he just experienced and rewrites the entire manuscript word for word just to feel the words flow from the old parchment through his fingers onto his laptop. Dora finds the new work on the computer and pushes Rory to shop the work to his boss. When the agent loves the book, it is published and becomes a great success. Torn up inside by his plagiarism, Rory is uncomfortable with his success. Things get worse when an old man (Jeremy Irons, Margin Call) confronts Rory in Central Park about stealing his work and tells Rory of a Young Man (Ben Barnes, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) after the Second World War and his enlightening experiences in Paris with a local girl named Celia (Nora Arnezeder, Safe House) that became the genesis of the work that Rory copied. The question is... what are the old man's real motivations, and what can Rory do about it?

The Words is a layered piece of fiction with stories within stories, fiction intertwined with reality. At the onset, we catch a glimpse of a man preparing to read excerpts from his book 'The Words'. What we do not expect is the fact that the author of 'The Words' is Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid, What to Expect When You're Expecting), not Rory. Immediately we find that Rory and Dora are characters in Clay's newest book. As the story unfolds, Clay recites the words that brings Rory and Dora to life. But as we get deeper into these characters' lives, we find more layers as a found manuscript typed decades earlier unveils an even more heartbreaking story written by a man who was struggling in his own life. Artistic inspiration comes from heartache, struggle, loss, joy, and pain. In The Words, catharsis comes from pouring one's soul from the heart and mind through the fingertips into fiction that imitates life.

The Words is well crafted, each perspective of the story differing from the others. The writer of 'The Words', Clay Hammond, lives in a world of accolades. A young woman, Daniella (Olivia Wilde, The Change-up), corners him and asks him about the book. When they retire to his modern high-rise apartment, she realizes that the glorious city skyline is tempered by stark modernism and sparse furnishings. In the New York City where Rory and Dora live, they are surrounded by a more earthy bohemian environment, struggling to make ends meet but loving each other. The discovery of the old manuscript brings uncomfortable success and the old man who actually wrote, then lost the story decades earlier. As the old man recites his own tale that led to the writing of his manuscript, the world of his younger version and Celia in post-war Paris, the world becomes softer and grainier, the streets fit for a world recovering from a violent era in history.

The story captivates most of the way through, offering intriguing dialogue and scenes. The weaving of the three tales allows the slower pace to be more interesting and varied. The music is driving and harmonious to each scene, helping to tie the worlds together and providing another unspoken character to the film. The pace is slow and deliberate, but not distracting. Only when you return to the outer shell of the story with Clay and Daniella does the film truly slow down to the point where you wonder whether Clay's writing and reading of 'The Words' is truly necessary.

Each character is portrayed with capable hands by each of the actors and actresses. Some of the best scenes are those between Bradley Cooper's Rory and Jeremy Irons' Old Man. Their dialogue on the bench in front of the pond is riveting. And the period work of Ben Barnes as the Young Man and Nora Arnezeder as Celia could be a beautiful film unto itself. 

The Words could have been a superior award-winning film, up to the same standard asThe Reader. Maybe the slower pace, the twisty ending, or just the novice status of the directors keep it from truly transcending into classic status. A fine film in many regards, there is still an intangible that seems to keep The Words a little too reserved.

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