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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Words Movie Review

In "The Words," a man realizes he will never be a successful writer, so he does the next best thing: steals someone else's brilliant novel and puts his own name on the cover. Fame, fortune and a nagging sense of guilt follow.

The man in question is Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper). He lives in New York City but has no money -- he can't seem to get his books published -- and his wife (Zoe Saldana) loves him but not their empty checking account. "I have to pay my dues," he says. "No, I have to pay your dues," corrects his father, upon writing him yet another check.
It's an epic fail all around, until he stumbles upon a misplaced post-war manuscript, written with all the eloquence and honesty missing from his own work. It's not his book, but he is desperate, so he passes it off as his own and it gets published with the hack title "The Window Tears." Then an old man (Jeremy Irons) turns up and claims he wrote this personal story and hasn't been able to find it all these years. Surprise!

Complicating matters even further, Rory's tale is actually the focus of a new book written by an acclaimed novelist (Dennis Quaid), which, hmm, seems to be a touch autobiographical. The movie jumps around between these stories and the old man's story. It's convoluted, no question, yet it's also strangely interesting and more entertaining than it should be.

There's something grand about watching Cooper squirm in the presence of Irons, and seeing Quaid barely holding it together with a not-so-secret admirer. The cast takes the script far more seriously than it warrants, and that provides ample, albeit unintentional, comic relief. It's enjoyable to see the stories within stories unfold, and the theme of morality and the aftermath of (many) poor decisions.

"The Words," written/directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, has more than its fair share of clichés and improbabilities. This is certainly not the second coming of "Atonement." But it's a layered story with an appealing cast, beautiful cinematography and a breezy clip. It's like one of those books you can't put down, and then when it's over, you ask, "Why was I so into that?" Who knows, but you were.

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