The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Words | Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde | Review

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  3_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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The Words | Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde | Review

A guy writes a best-selling novel.  That best-selling novel is about a guy who writes a best-selling novel.  Then, there’s another guy who actual wrote the best-selling novel.  Wait, which author am I talking about, the creator or the created?  Confused?

You won’t be after viewing The Words, which lays out the layered plot in bite-sized pieces that are easy to digest.  You’ll understand what’s going on; caring about any of it is a different matter.

Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) is the author of a bestseller entitled The Words, about a young struggling author Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) with little money and a supportive wife Dora (Zoe Saldana).  She’s so supportive that she buys him a vintage leather case that contains in a hidden compartment, a decades-old manuscript on yellowed pages.

Circumstances, combined with only a twinge of conscience, conspire to propel Jansen to submit the re-typed manuscript as his own masterpiece, Window Tears.  Instant superstardom and a prestigious book award follow, but so does the original author of the work, an octogenarian with stories of his own.  The old man (Jeremy Irons) knows what Jansen’s done. In yet another layer of storytelling, he reveals the true stories behind his original manuscript, featuring himself as a young post-war journalist (Ben Barnes) with a French wife (Nora Arnezeder) and a set of tragic events.

Cue the ensuing dilemma that Jansen must face.  Should he come clean?  Pay off the old man?  Shut up and pray?

The film dips periodically back to its “real” character, Clay Hammond, fresh from reading excerpts of The Words to an adoring crowd, including one groupie-like graduate student/admirer named Daniella (Olivia Wilde) who coaxes the book’s character motivation out of him - or at least his rationalization of it. 

Daniella’s fixed glare, directed at Hammond in scene after scene is supposed to be some kind of hint that’s never verbalized.  A ponderous musical score makes the plot points seem more profound than they actually are, until the hollow and unsatisfying ending puts a stop to all of the tormented delving, both a relief and an anticlimax.

Bradley Cooper’s tortured, quizzical expressions are a nice nod to Jansen’s guilt.  Zoe Saldana’s Dora has two fine confrontations to her credit.  Jeremy Irons’ accent flickers from American to British and back again, but he is convincing as old and tired – good for the role at least. He provides the purest injection of integrity in all of the film’s 96 minutes.

Dennis Quaid, looking scary in close-ups, is perhaps purposefully ejecting his former pretty-boy image in favor of world-weary cynicism, which again, serves the role, but prevents an audience relationship with it – and that’s crucial here.  Olivia Wilde’s Daniella shoots daggers with her eyes, looking curiously angry in nearly every scene with her alleged literary hero.  Another layer perhaps left intentionally unexplored?

Written and directed by Brian Klugman (Dreamland) and Lee Sternthal (TRON: Legacy) the first half of the film is engaging, clever, and with an intriguing premise.  Is it worth being financially solvent if it means being morally bankrupt as well?  A tedious, sagging mid-section and an anticlimactic ending work as a “never mind” to everything that has come before. 

After a promising start, The Words trails off into…  Just like that.




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