Here’s a fact I defy anyone to challenge. No movie, television show, book or any other piece of fictional entertainment containing a main character named “Rory” has ever been any good. I will personally shake the hand of anyone who can find evidence to convince me otherwise. (Provided said person is willing to pay for their own travel, lodging, and food if the journey to collect said handshake proves to be a longish one.) In a way it really pains me to write this review, as Bradley Cooper, who plays the aforementioned Rory of this movie, was also the star of the wonderful ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, a movie so good that I am, even after sitting through this dreck, still feeling the immediate afterglow of. It’s not his fault that ‘The Words’ falls so flat. The blame there must fall on the words of The Words itself. As someone who has done a fair share of writing and has interacted with numerous other writers of various kinds over the years, presenting a main character who is an unapologetic plagiarist and expecting him to garner sympathy from other writers (who, aside from women who just want to see a mushy love story I assume is one of the movie’s target demographics) is tantamount to if someone were to make a children’s movie and make their chief protagonist turn out to be a pedophile. It’s just one of those big no-no’s of the ‘writerly’ world, which of course, this movie acknowledges, but does so for the most part in that winking “Hey it’s not really that bad eh?” kind of way. Well, actually, yeah, it kind of is.
That in and of itself could have been forgivable though. I have no problem enjoying and even endorsing a movie whose main character turns out to be utterly reprehensible, as long as that movie can prove to be at least somewhat insightful, educational, or perhaps even just humorous if nothing else. The Words is none of those things. It never rises above its source material, or comments on it in any meaningful way. It just sort of thinks that it is telling us a neat and clever story, when it all it is really doing is boring the pants off of us for the most part with scenes of Bradley Cooper typing intently into a computer screen (There’s a reason I don’t film myself writing these reviews people…). Watching this movie is like hanging out with that really pretentious acquaintance who isn’t half as clever or imaginative as he believes himself to be (and perhaps deep down he knows this as well, but is putting on a good show for the time being). You feel both embarrassed for him, and eventually, for yourself, and hope you can make it out of there with as few people noticing you as possible.
This film uses a non linear approach, so as to appear more interesting than it actually is but the basic plot is this, Rory Jenson is a struggling writer, living off the paycheck of his fiance’ Dora (Zoe Saldana) and the charity of his father, played by the great JK Simmons who I kept expecting, and hoping would return at some point or another, but sadly never did after his one small scene. Rory gives it his all, but fails to get his novel published as it is too internal, artistic and subtle (admirable traits that I wish this movie also shared) and not commercially viable enough for the masses. Later on, Rory discovers an old manuscript in his leather travel bag that his girlfriend bought him on their honeymoon trip to Paris. Rory reads, and is enthralled by said manuscript, and after the briefest moment of soul searching decides to type it up on his computer and turn it in to the publisher that just turned him down. This time, his work is happily accepted and he finds himself becoming the new hot thing in literature, speaking at luncheons, receiving awards, and generally becoming the toast of the town.
In the latter half of our story, the man whose work Rory stole and claimed credit for, known only as The Old Man, finally reveals himself after lurking about in the shadows for most of the film and gives him a good verbal thrashing. This scene is the best one of the movie, and one of the only one’s in which a character who we can actually feel somewhat inclined to be sympathetic to is pitted against another character who is supposed to be the one we actually are rooting for who has proven himself to be a morally deficient plagiarist and assorted scoundrel. But even this scene and the booming voice of the great Jeremy Irons isn’t enough to make The Words watchable in any way, shape, or form.
Throughout the movie we have Dennis Quaid, as Clay Hammond, a successful author doing a reading of his most recent novel to a crowd of young college students who apparently have nothing better to do on a weekend, like get drunk, or play angry birds or anything really but sit through this story. The story Hammond is reading is the story of The Words itself, of course, which fades in and out throughout the movie, with Hammond’s constant narration. You get no points for correctly guessing that the “fictional” story and the story of Hammond are connected, (or else they would not be in the movie at all), and while I won’t spoil how they connect, it doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure it all out either. In between cuts of struggling writer Rory’s plagiarizing saga we are subjected to scenes of Hammond attempting to seduce a young female in the audience named Daniella (Olivia Wilde in a thankless, and utterly pointless role) who he later brings back to his hotel room in the big climax where he reveals, –GASP–, that it was he all along who originally stole The Old Man’s story, and ultimately got away with it and turned it into a successful career for himself. I know, I said I wouldn’t spoil it. But I just did you a service if you were actually contemplating watching this.
This movie is a complete waste of the talents of the both good and great actors and actresses who foolishly agreed to participate in it. Those looking for something to provide them with the alluring literary experience that The Words wishes it could, but ultimately can’t provide, should put this movie down, and just go read a book, something that I’m not entirely sure the makers of this movie have ever actually done themselves. My final verdict? This movie would have been better off stealing the script of a better movie and using it instead of the one it used here. I normally try to be more sympathetic here, but this movie managed to bore, offend, and then further exacerbate me with a pointless twist ending, all in one sitting. Avoid this one at all costs folks.
The Words gets a one out of five: BAD.