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The Words (2012)

When films leave little doubt as to the purpose of their script, that is a compelling sort of tale. Then there are those movies that plant doubt and end on the pinnacle of it – in a sense, that is a story’s own worst enemy. The Words backs itself into a corner, one that may leave the viewer thinking, yet is ultimately more unsatisfying as not. Or is it?

Well known to best seller lists, Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) is reading his latest novel to a crowd of applause – among them is Daniella (Olivia Wilde), a young grad student whose fascination with Clay leads to private conversations about the inspiration behind his book, a book that tells the story of a struggling writer named Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper). Married to his college sweetheart Dora (Zoe Saldana), Rory is about to his limit following rejection letter after rejection until… he finds an old manuscript tucked into the folds of a bag his wife purchased for him while shopping an antique store. Reading the novel, Rory is deeply moved by the story – in the words of the author everything he ever hoped he could be comes alive, and before he can stop himself, he copies the entire book, word-for-word onto his computer where Dora reads it and unaware of its true origins, she encourages her husband to submit the novel.

Within months after its publication under Rory’s name, the book becomes an instant success and the book earns prestigious awards, Rory has finally achieved everything he set out to accomplish. But fame comes with a price… and Rory’s dreams seem to crumble when the truth comes out.  

Until I saw a friend’s recent mention of watching this film, I’d completely forgotten it was one that I’d wanted to eventually rent. Contrary to what the synopsis implies, the story is a bit… complicated. There ends up being three deliberate stories that try to co-exist. Whether or not they ever do is part of the reason the film brands itself more of a quandary than it should have been. Admittedly, the framework is quite good. Telling a story by fictional narrative is interesting and offers new perspective – plus the guessing game is more of an investment. Early on in the film, I was pulled into the plot; interested in what the narrative meant to the story in addition to the curiosity I’d already expected of the protagonists’ life.  

Possibly the best thing about the movie is its cast – in addition to the top billed starts, Jeremy Irons and Ben Barnes also star, each of whom, I thought turned in dynamite performances. Looking beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot to openly compliment. In a word, this entire movie is… weak. Compacted into one package were three stories, none of which felt particularly genuine unfold, there isn’t enough pizzazz for the film to be truly great. There was the soldier who fell in love, experienced heartache and subsequently a life that fell apart. Clay Hammond had material success but bordered on depression, then there is Rory’s life who has the story most worth listening too – and is undoubtedly the most compelling. His ambition and desire to be something beyond his means – or beyond what life had placed in front of him is where the most absorbing part of the script lies. Instead of owning up to the truth, looking his wife in the eye and righting a wrong, he permits the bad (wrong) to overwhelm the good (right). Then, at the peak of his success and acclaim, Rory’s crash course of the consequences his actions will merit is startling. In the aftermath of that, he pursues doing what’s right at the cost of losing all that’s dear to him and it’s gratifying to see him try to rectify his mistakes.  

Visionary in certain scopes of the “layered” drama, the ultimate message is one of sorrow. To top that off, the conclusion isn’t conclusive; it “feels” more like an artsy film than big-Hollywood and while I formed an opinion of what the film meant to impart, there are other takeaways from its abrupt ending. Even in  this doubt the film gifts us, it makes the questions of life seem "human" and challenges us in its own way. That sort of honesty rarely comes along.  In the end, no matter the accolades or wealth, truth should always be what taps us on the shoulder urging our conscious to do the right thing – for Rory, living with his conscious became his own worst enemy.

(Parental concerns: There is one use of the f-word along with scattered other, more minor profanities [h*ll]. Married and unmarried couples passionately kiss in various states of undress and suggestive poses; comments are made to “making love” and a wife teases her husband that he’s “missing out” by continuing to work instead of coming to bed. A man gets drunk and there’s some social drinking. The film is rated PG13.)
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  1. Ah, shucks. I wanted this to be a good one. I may still rent it some day just because I like movies about writers, but I have a feeling I'll end up just as unsatisfied. Boo! :)

    1. It wasn't a "bad" movie, Melissa... just unfulfilling. That being said, I agree! I'm a sucker for movies about writing also and those bits were interesting. Do share what you thought once you see it as I'd love to hear. :)

  2. You know my opinion--I thought elements were left to be decided. I found it confusing at moments.....but I thought the acting was that's how I roll

    1. DEFINITELY, Ella. That ending was very "up in the air." I had an opinion of what the scope of the story was (or meant to be), but I don't think there was "just" one conclusion to reach. Ugh! That's the most annoying part of movies that end without real answers. Guess it's interesting just because it gets us thinking.

      The acting was EXCELLENT. Loved almost everyone in their respective roles. :)

  3. OooO! I haven't heard about this one, but I will look into it =D

    1. Sounds like a plan, Natalie! Wishing you happy watching. :)

  4. What are you doing Rissi, posting 'negative' reviews about all these movies whose trailers intrigued me ;-)

    1. Shame on me! ;)

      Sorry about that, Birdie - you'd probably like this movie, actually. It's kind of a an artsy production; I didn't dislike it. Just... felt kind of empty at the end. It's really all in the interpretation of the story and some moviegoers will feel like it was more uplifting than "bad" and while I am not sure if that makes any sense, I do believe that's how best to describe the film.


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