Review: “The Words” is a nice September surprise

September 7th, 2012 at 12:00 am by under Entertainment

I think we’ve all experienced writer’s block at some point.

The dilemma for the writer and lead character in “The Words” goes much deeper than not having the right words… that plus the construction of this multi-layered drama will keep audiences focused on the literary puzzle constructed by writer/directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal.

“The Words” poster courtesy CBS Films

(My spoiler-free review)

Its not often movie audiences can be drawn in by an author reading sections from his book about an aspiring writer who becomes inspired by another story.  Its like the filmmakers said let’s do “Inception” set in the world of novels and authors… a story within a story.

“The Words” is not really as complex or genius as Christopher Nolan’s movie, but it is different enough in concept and written well enough to grab your attention.  That concept – of “the story behind the stories” – has us going back in time and following four different storylines with four different sets of characters.   If this sounds like too much for you, don’t worry, first time directors Klugman and Sternthal keep it pretty obvious where we are in which level of the story.

Bradley Cooper is the main character “Rory Jansen”, Dennis Quaid is “Clay Hammond” the author who wrote about the struggling writer and his wife “Dora” (Zoe Saldana), while Jeremy Irons is the “old man” whose character has a lot more depth than what we get from the surface.   Without spoiling – because its better to go into this movie without knowing more than what I’m going to divulge – I like that this never got into cliche production values like soft focus or slow dissolves between layers of this story, it all was upfront and more like changes in time than switching between reality and what was on the written page.

The cast is good, even if Cooper is a little tough to accept as a struggling writer, Quaid is too believable as the superstar middle-aged writer, and some scenes have weaker acting/dialogue than others… luckily Irons delivers his lines like a grizzled veteran… slipping into different versions of his unmistakable voice.

There is an “Alice in Wonderland” feeling to this movie… as we get through the first half of the movie (which is easily the strongest half of the movie)… we get a new wrinkle in the plot and it seems as if we are falling farther down the rabbit hole… now learning about the third and fourth layers of this complicated, yet compelling story.   There are at least two twists in this story – they are not completely surprising but carefully built into the story and slowly revealed to the audience.  The devices used in the movie are not gimmicky or trite… the movie looks good with visual clues for the audience along the way.   I enjoyed how the filmmakers let you think you have things figured out, then change it up – textbook red herrings to confuse the audience.

Those intricate puzzle pieces have us trying to solve the mystery as the story unfolds … but ultimately its left up to us to come up with the next chapter of the story… just like Quaid’s book, appropriately and obviously titled “The Words”.


I give it 8.0 out of 10 … while it falls a bit short of Oscar contention, its an interesting movie told in an different way with a cast that makes the characters interesting… its 90+ minutes of compelling storytelling with a romantic element and a big dash of lessons learned.

MORE INFO (possible spoilers):

Zoe Saldana and Bradley Cooper in “The Words” photo courtesy CBS Films

“The Words”

(2012) (rated: PG-13 for brief strong language and smoking)
(1 hr, 36 min)

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, Ben Barnes, John Hannah, J.K. Simmons, Zeljko Ivanek, Michael McKean, Nora Arnezeder

Directed/Written by: Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal [co-wrote "Tron Legacy" together]

Genre: Drama/Romance

The Plot: A writer at the peak of his literary success discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man’s work.

So what did you think?  Please post a comment!

“The Words” poster and photo courtesy CBS Films

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