Very rarely do I walk out of a movie and not have an opinion. For better or worse, regardless of whether or not I absolutely loved it or wholeheartedly hated it, I almost always have an opinion immediately.
However, this was not the case with “The Words.” After nearly six hours of mulling the film over in my head, I came to the conclusion that the film was essentially a waste of time.
I went into the film expecting exactly what the trailer presented it to be: a tale about a struggling author (Bradley Cooper) who steals another man’s work and becomes an immediate success while dealing with the repercussions of his actions. Unfortunately, this is not the case. What audiences ended up getting is a story within a story within another story.
On the surface is the story of Clay Hammond (played by Dennis Quaid), author of the best-selling novel “The Words.” Hammond’s novel tells the story of Cooper’s character Rory Jansen, who in turn hears the story of the life of the old man from whom he plagiarized (played by Jeremy Irons).
Essentially, the film becomes nearly two hours of boring, uninspired story telling that is mulled down by a script that thinks far too highly of itself.
Let’s start with the only decent thing about this movie, the performances. Although the script is dreadful for the most part, the film’s stars do the best they can with what they are given. Dennis Quaid and Olivia Wilde are quite good in their small roles. Jeremy Irons plays the old man perfectly, and the best part of the whole film is when he tells his story to Jansen.
A pleasant surprise here is the strong performance from Bradley Cooper. Although the actor may be best known as Phil from “The Hangover,” it’s clear his acting capabilities are far beyond that. One of the films only decent moments is when Jansen goes through a drunken breakdown. It is in this scene that Cooper truly shines and I am looking forward to his performance in David O. Russell’s upcoming film “The Silver Linings Playbook.”
Now onto the negatives, and trust me, this film has many of them. I’ll start with the script. Lee Sternthal and Brian Klugman, who co-directed the film’s screenplay, is a jumbled mess. Although they came up with a fascinating idea exploring the repercussions of the decisions we make as human beings, their execution is poor at best. When I see a film like this, I expect to feel something. Make me feel bad for the protagonist as his life comes crashing down upon him, or angry with him for plagiarizing. Instead, the lackluster screenplay just skims over any chance to elicit a reaction from the audience in favor to proceed with its ho-hum storytelling.
Speaking of ho-hum storytelling…that’s essentially all the film is. As much as it tries to be deep and philosophical and force the audience to have an epiphany as the credits begin to roll, the film falls far short of its goal. The film goes beyond storytelling maybe one time in its hour and 36-minute run time. Besides that, it’s as if audience members are in kindergarten and the co-directors are the teachers, busting out a picture book to read us to sleep. The pacing is slow and oftentimes, the narrations become confusing, not working nearly as well as the scribes think they do.
While nothing major hits theatres for a few weeks, skip “The Words” and catch up on some of the late summer releases. It will be time much better spent. 1.5 stars out of 5.