Hey there, everyone! Sorry, meant to do this yesterday, and still intend for this to be a Friday thing…but in any case, for those of you who couldn’t read my Spanish post over at Al Día earlier this week, here is the same post in English! Enjoy my review of The Words.
CRITICAL REVIEW: THE WORDS
The Words, directed by Brian Klurgman and Lee Sternthal and starring Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana is trying really hard to be an Oscar nominee. It’s the story of a writer who’s written a book about a writer who’s written a book he plagiarized from another writer, which is his way of attempting to live with himself and the fact that he…plagiarized a book from a writer.
The film looks gorgeous, and cinematographer Antonio Calvache beautifully showcases the literary quality of cities like Paris and New York. It also has a tremendous cast. Bradley Cooper is at his best here as Rory Jansen, the fictional writer at the heart of the film’s novel. When an actor is The Sexiest Man Alive, it’s easy to overlook his actual talent, but Cooper’s is considerable, his eyes doing more than many actors’ entire performances. Zoe Saldana shines in her role as his wife, Dora, providing much of the film’s humor, spark, and moral center. While obviously Latina roles like the lead in Colombiana are important, Saldana’s career is successful, because she is versatile, and in The Words she demonstrates a fierce intelligence as well as a sweetness not evident in many of her other roles. Cooper and Saldana have amazing chemistry, and their relationship, even at its worst, lights up the screen. Jeremy Irons rounds out the main cast as The Old Man, the writer whose novel is stolen, and he brings his usual nuance and depth to the role.
So why wasn’t The Words entirely satisfying, despite appealing to my writerly longing and grandiosity?
For one thing, not all of the performances were of the same caliber as the ones mentioned above. Dennis Quaid phones in his performance as Clay Hammond, author of the film’s titular novel, and there wasn’t a single moment of his performance that felt truthful, or even remotely interesting. Olivia Wilde, as Daniella, absolutely delivers the sultriness required of her meager role, but Daniella is such a poorly-written cliche (the hot, brilliant grad student who falls for the older writer) that we’re not given much more to care about. There is zero chemistry between Quaid and Wilde, which made the age difference between them even more difficult to take.
In its obvious attempt to be a Serious Rumination On the Power of Words and the Meaning of Life, The Words contains one layer too much. Had it simply been the story of Rory and Dora Jansen coming to terms with Rory’s huge mistake, it might have been a great film. But The Words gets bogged down by the added layer of the Clay Hammond segments, which are poorly acted and don’t add any insight into the film’s themes or story. It seems like a layer added to give the audience the false sense of a “complex” script, when really, all it is is muddled.
The Words serves a purpose as a fine piece of writer-wank. But as a film? It leaves something to be desired.
The Words is now playing nationwide.