Finding words for a failing plotline

Emma Peters

The tale of a successful writer who steals another man’s life story seems like a compelling premise for a movie, but The Words, released Sept. 7, is nothing but an atrociously directed 96 minutes of monotony.

The movie attempts to mesh three different storylines into one melodramatic and artsy piece of cinema. Co-directors and writes Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal apparently aimed to “layer” the plot by structuring it as a story within a story within another uneventful story.  It is a poor imitation of Christopher Nolan’s 2010 blockbuster Inception.

Protagonist Rory Jansen, played by Bradley Cooper, is a young aspiring writer desperate for his big break in the literary world. While on his honeymoon in Paris with his wife, Dora, played by Zoe Saldana, he discovers a worn leather satchel that coincidentally contains an outstanding manuscript from the late 1940s.

With no sense of guilt, Jansen copies the manuscript and publishes it under his own name, gaining national acclaim.

It turns out that Jansen’s novel is based off of a “true story” in the movie: the life of a World War II veteran stationed in France whose life is neither remarkable nor climactic. This story predictably unfolds when a character dubbed the Old Man, played by Jeremy Irons, reveals the truth about the stolen manuscript.

The Old Man then accounts his life as a twenty-something writer in a war-torn romance with a hot French woman that is all eye candy and no substance.

In the third storyline, Dennis Quaid plays Clay Hammond, another famous author in the present day who speaks at an event promoting his book “The Words” about Jensen’s story. Midway through the movie, Hammond flirts with Daniella, played by Olivia Wilde, a gorgeous university student at the event, quickly forming a shallow and laughable romance.

The Words could have been stronger if Hammond’s storyline was cut and the other two love stories were further developed.

To make up for the lackluster plot, Klugman hired Hollywood heartthrobs like Bradley Cooper and Olivia Wilde, but their status doesn’t compensate for their poor acting. No matter how iridescently blue Cooper’s eyes are, there’s no depth in his portrayal of Jansen’s angst.

For people who have seen The Hangover, it is strange to see Cooper play someone other than a sexy jerk. And yet his character is still a rogue in this movie, stealing the Old Man’ story and fooling around with his wife on plenty of unnecessary occasions.

Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana and Nora Arnezder (who plays the Old Man’s wife), all play attractive and women with no engaging personality or ambition.  Jeremy Irons is the only one with a hint of passion in his acting, but he feels out of place with the rest of the cast.

Adding to the list of flaws, there is little consistency in flow of the movie. The scenes with Jensen and Dora are almost comical, as their undeveloped relationship continues to flip-flop from love-dovey to yelling and screaming. The plot gets lost in the three different romances and conflicts as well as the random moments of angst and trite humor.

As if it wasn’t already predictable, the movie prides itself on explaining every detail of the story in its dialogue, failing to be clever by talking about “the words” in every scene and having long, drawn out conversations with the same theatrical music playing in the background, building clumsily placed intensity.

The Words is a disappointment in nearly every aspect of the film, making it an exceptionally sad directorial debut for Klugman and Sternthal. This movie had the potential to be a unique character study of a writer’s struggle with guilt, but it fails to do so in a gripping way.