Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Words

As I was leaving the theater for this film I found myself reflecting on my difficulties with bringing my own stories and ideas from page to screen or novel and how that frustration could possibly turn to desperation, and you have to ask yourself the question would you do what Rory did?  Of course what I'm referring to is the premise of the film about a young writer who finds a manuscript with no name attached and in his frustration with his inability to get his own material published he re-types every word and claims it for his own. For some reason Bradley Cooper keeps taking these roles of a frustrated writer who obtains his success based on false premises. Like Limitless and one could say he played a struggling journalist/writer on Alias. Not sure what he sees in these characters but he does seem comfortable playing them. The Words is a strangely crafted film that shares it's odd narrative with another favorite film of mine Adaptation. Where that was a brilliant comedy about a story within a story this one weaves a equally intricate tale without the humor and maybe that is why it suffered at the Box Office.
Clay Hammond (Denis Quaid) starts off the film reading an excerpt of his new fictional book the Words. As he tells his story we begin to follow his protagonist Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) and his wife Dora Jansen (Zoe Saldana). Rory is a struggling novelist who is having trouble making ends meet as he tries to get his first novel sold. After traveling in Paris he comes across a manuscript in an old shoulder bag that has no name attached. He is so affected by the manuscript in it's detail of Paris post World War II that he tries to channel his own inspiration by re-typing it word for word. He eventually publishes the book under his name and receives fame and fortune for it that is until he comes across an Old Man (Jeremy Irons) who claims that he wrote the book.
I really liked the movie even though I found the pacing to be a little strange. It was hard to tell what was true and what wasn't and I'm not so sure how effective the weaving between stories with Bradley Cooper and Denis Quaid were. I think the story about Dora, Rory and the old man were enough drama to put into one movie. SPOILER ALERT---------Ok, so it's really impossible to talk about this movie without revealing most or all of the twists but I think it was interesting that the filmmakers seemed to imply that Clay Hammond was actually Rory and that his book the words is him acknowledging it. But he doesn't outright admit it's him and the film never clears that up. I definitely can understand the power of having your words stolen from you, it's not just words in this case it's your life and it has somebody else's name attached to it.  I can also understand Rory who can see the brilliance of the book as well as recognizing that on his best day he could never write anything as powerful. Which then brings us to the character of Clay who seems to smugly revel in his success while subtlety admitting he's a bit of a charlatan. But after thinking about it for a while it's pretty clear that Clay is Rory and he does feel guilt for what he did to the old man and this book is his way of trying to make things right. But he still isn't paying any real consequences for it except from Olivia Wilde's character who is the only one who seems to have figured it out. There wasn't anything very new established here, drama wise, but I think the dilemma was definitely interesting but it never seemed to fully accomplish what it set out to do. I think the filmmakers were too keen on the mystery of who is who rather than focus on the why. Otherwise there were some great performances from Bradley Cooper and the stunning Zoe Saldana. I always love Olivia Wilde and Jeremy Irons confrontation with Cooper was solid. It's just Denis Quaid that kind of sticks out like a sore thumb, he just seems out of place in his role and I'm not sure if I can pinpoint exactly why. I think he is also too focused on the mystery of this guy that he doesn't really reveal anything and it becomes a bit lost in the translation. But I don't want to be like the film and not answer the main question in my post that they didn't answer in the movie, would you take manuscript and make it your own? The answer is definitely no I would think cause the consequences are too high plus I would feel guilty about it all the time especially if it became a hit. And that is no fun. See you won't get that kind of directness from this movie and honestly that might be part of why it didn't quite hit it off with film goers. Anyway it's a nice little drama with an interesting premise but you shouldn't kill yourself to get to the theater to see it this can definitely wait till DVD. Besides you may start having trouble finding it in theaters given the pitiful box office.
Grade: 3 Buckets

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