More than meets the eye
Maybe it’s the timing of the release, coming at the dead zone of post-summer and pre-fall cinematic fare, or the terrific casting, or the solid, thought-provoking moral dilemma at its core, but “The Words” has enough going for it to be recommended. Though cynics will decry its heavy-handed romanticism, the love stories on the periphery of its main plot feel credible enough and are shot with beauty and precision. And the film’s only major flaw doesn’t totally derail its modest ambitions.
Bradley Cooper stars as Rory Jansen, a young, struggling writer who for three years has tried in vain to get a novel published. He marries the beautiful and supportive Dora (Zoe Saldana), and while the couple is honeymooning in Paris, she buys him an old attaché. When Rory finds within the case a tattered, type-written manuscript that contains a magnificent novel by an unknown author, his life will change forever.
Plagiarism becomes a compellingly complex issue in large part because of the well-written script, but Cooper and a dilapidated, elderly Jeremy Irons as the novel’s true author provide depth of feeling, with just the right dose of warmth and sadness to their roles. To say Cooper has the chops to hang with the highly regarded, Oscar-winning Irons would be an understatement. As he proved in “Limitless” last year, Cooper is no pretty boy, one-note actor.
Anyone who has struggled to pursue their passion and faced setback after setback will completely understand Rory’s desperate desire not only for financial success but for a validation of what seems to be his very existence.
“The Words” is most effective when it mixes Rory’s tumultuous journey with flashbacks of the true story contained in the novel involving a young WWII soldier (Ben Barnes) and his beautiful French wife (Nora Arnezeder). A major distraction in the film is the unnecessary relating of the entire story by a successful author (Dennis Quaid) in a public forum that just seems to diminish what could have been a poignant ending.
Still, “The Words” is a literary film for folks who like that sort of thing, and is a gentle, quietly stirring reminder of when Hemingway wrote about the world that, “Breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and smoking.