DVD Review: The Words

STUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal | CAST: Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, Ben Barnes, Olivia Wilde
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 12/24/2012 | PRICE: Price: DVD $30.99, Blu-ray $35.99
BONUSES: featurettes, extended version
SPECS: PG-13 | 97 min. | Drama romance | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The 2012 drama-romance The Words plays like the tale of its protagonist, a first-time novelist who has passion for his craft, but whose success is falsely earned because he doesn’t have the talent to do it on his own. The Words, too, has something interesting going on—there’s a better movie buried in it somewhere—but it doesn’t quite do the job.

Bradley Cooper (Limitless) stars as Rory Jansen, a young novelist trying to make his first big score, who comes across a decades-old manuscript in a antique briefcase that his wife (Zoe Saldana, Colombiana) purchased for him while on their honeymoon in Paris. He re-writes the manuscript as his own under the title of The Window Tears, it’s published, and Rory becomes the toast of the town. But then a mannered Old Man (Jeremy Irons, Margin Call)) contacts Rory to let him know that it was his story that Rory has published, the Old Man having lost his briefcase years before. And so begins Rory’s inner turmoil…

The Words movie scene

Bradley Cooper and Zoë Saldana star in The Words.

But wait, the story of Rory and the Old Man is itself a story within a story—it’s being read to audiences at public readings by it’s writer, Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid, Pandorum), who uses his words to charm a pretty and overly curious grad student (Olivia Wilde, TRON: Legacy). Alright, to make it clear: A writer is reading his story about a writer who has stolen the manuscript of another writer, who wrote the story years before. Three stories in one multi-layered movie—with the story of Rory’s “literary theft” from the Old Man taking center stage.

The idea of a not-talented-enough writer taking someone else’s work and getting it published as his own has been explored before in such movies as 1998’s A Murder of Crows. and, more recently, Woody Allen’s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. But while Woody’s effort was a “Woodyosyncratic” drama-comedy and Crows was a straight-on thriller, The Words has a shakier time with its tone. Bouncing between Hammond, Hammond’s novel, and the story within the novel, The Words’ narrative is diluted by its structure even as it unfolds. Additionally, the emphasis on Cooper and Saldana’s relationship and a couple of third act revelations simply aren’t satisfying. The Quaid/Wilde passages, in particular, are handled in an offhanded manner that don’t deliver on the climactic consequences we’ve been set up for.

Written and directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal (it’s the first feature they directed) the moderately budgeted film does look quite nice—the post-WWII Paris sequences are particularly handsome considering they were filmed in Montreal—and Irons offers a strong, heartfelt performance, as usual.

Along with an extended cut of the film, the DVD’s extras consist solely of a pair of featurettes that clock in at a combined 10 minutes. They inform us that Cooper and co-director Klugman are childhood friends—he even attended Klugman’s Bar Mitzvah (snapshot included)—and that Cooper was first introduced to the screenplay at a table read some 11 years ago. Reading the roles of Rory and the Old Man were Gabriel Macht (Middle Men) and Brian’s uncle, the late Jack Klugman (12 Angry Men). Cooper loved the screenplay back then and always kept it in mind until nearly a decade later, when his attachment to a property had the power to get it green-lit. And that was the case with The Words—and after Cooper signed on, all the other players began to fall into place. It’s a nice little story on a how movie comes to be made— and arguably more engaging than the one in the film itself.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.