Review: The Words


The Words

Words are extremely powerful things. They're capable doing so much, and in essence they are such small things. That's what The Words is all about. It's a film inside of a film inside of another film in a kind of set of Russian nesting dolls disguised as a complete film.

More so than the importance of words in this movie is the idea that nothing is as important as your own words. To plagiarize is to outright lie, and it's a mistake that can never be taken back, whether or not things are made right on the surface, they can't ever be right again. The emptiness that plagues a plagiarist drives the most interesting part of a strong script from writer/directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, backed by some terrific performances.

Author Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) is giving a reading of his new novel The Words, about an aspiring novelist named Rory (Bradley Cooper). Rory isn't without talent -- he's got some, he's just not quite where he would need to be in order to be a successful published writer. Halfway given up on his dream, he takes up a job in a publishing firm.

One day, while digging through an old briefcase, Rory discovers a manuscript that houses a great novel. Driven by the need to feel great words course through his hands, he retypes it word for word in hopes of getting inspiration. Those words are discovered and before he has a chance to take notice of what exactly it is he's doing, he's suddenly a world-famous author. One day he is confronted by an old man (Jeremy Irons) who claims to have written the novel, and he can prove it.

On the surface, the movie The Words is the story of Clay telling the fictional story of Rory, who within that story is told the true story behind the great novel that he unwittingly but kind of wittingly stole. The brilliance of the movie as a whole is the fact that Rory's story is the least interesting. Sure he's got an amazing wife (Zoe Saldana), and together they honestly have amazing chemistry, but his story never feels complete because as a writer he's never complete.

The old man's story is incredibly touching, and Irons tells it beautifully. As Rory becomes more and more drawn into the story, so does the audience. There's some remarkable storytelling behind the words Irons' character is saying, and amazing as the words are, his performance really sells this portion of the film.

The Words holds tension the way a drama should. You're enthralled when you need to be, anxious when you need to be, happy and laughing when it's appropriate. At 96 minutes it's every bit as long as it needs to be, yet could have benefitted from a little more explanation into Clay Hammond's character. Some of the conversations between he and his lovely female fan  (Olivia Wilde) are ambiguous and although not difficult to interpret, that story feels incomplete.

Despite all of that, The Words has an absolutely brilliant script and the movie will stay with you long after you watch it. If nothing else, the story of the old man and Jeremy Irons' words behind them is worth the price of admission alone.