‘The Words’ is a film about, well, words – more specifically, the act of producing words, known as writing. For a movie about writing, which could involve some compelling characters, an involving narrative, and good use of language, ‘The Words’ is frustrating, and less complex than it thinks it is. Directed by first-time filmmaker Brian Klugman, the movie follows a writer (Bradley Cooper), at the peak of his literary success, discovering the price he must pay for plagiarizing the work of another writer. The cast also includes Jeremy Irons whose character sets the plot in motion, and Zoe Saldana as the supportive wife. There is also Dennis Quaid, who reads from his new novel ‘The Words’, which is about the Bradley Cooper plagiarism story; there’s also Olivia Wilde, a grad student who is very interested in Quaid’s new book. Are you following this story-within-story structure? I promise my plot description above is more clearly presented and dramatically compelling than anything transpiring on the screen with ‘The Words’. I must admit the performances are great, especially from Jeremy Irons who plays a more vulnerable character than we’re used to seeing. Bradley Cooper, an actor I’ve always considered more lucky than talented, is almost good enough in this to make me retract that claim. A big problem here though is the narrative, which spells everything out. Characters’ actions, which we as an audience should be processing, and emotions we should be feeling are spoon fed to us by Quaid’s character. Hemmingway is also referenced a number of times – after all, he did lose his manuscript in a briefcase on a train. Why couldn’t the movie be about that instead – or about Cooper’s character fraudulently publishing Hemmingway’s lost manuscript? That would automatically eliminate some superfluous characters. Same goes for its recursive storytelling structure. I’m not asking for a more conventional film. But, like a good book, I should be immersed in its literary world and not reading it at arms length. QED.
– Jerry Nadarajah