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The Words: My take on the movie starring Bradley Cooper

I didn't need to read any reviews to know The Words was not supposed to be very good.  The verdict was in the air. I knew it but I wanted to see it anyway. Unlike most of the movies I blog about, this one wasn't based on a book BUT the storyline is all about books and writers so I really wanted to see it and share my thoughts with you. 

It begins with Hammond (Dennis Quaid) reading to a large crowd from his newest best seller The Words. The story he tells is the one you already know from the trailer: an unpublished writer (Bradley Cooper) finds a manuscript and passes it off as his own. Naturally it's a mega success. The Old Man ( an ancient looking Jeremy Irons) who actually wrote the manuscript recognizes it as his work - Cooper's character hasn't changed a comma from the originial - and confronts him. The Old Man then tells Cooper the story of how he came to write and lose the manuscript in Paris years ago. It's all about the woman he loves.

Ben Barnes and Nora Arnezeder in The Words
Thanks to glorious cinematography from Antonio Calvache, The Words looked beautiful. The post World WarII Paris scenes were especially gorgeous. Not surprising, he was the DP on Todd Fields also beautiful looking films, Little Children and In The Bedroom

The actors did their best. Bradley Cooper plays aginst type as Rory, the writer who plagiarizes an entire book. I'm not sure I would buy Cooper as a serious writer BUT as a writer who seems a little lazy and loses his moral compass? Yes, that works. 

Zoe Saldana was fine as the wife who spends a lot of time draped all over him. Can you blame her?

Jeremy Irons is The Old Man, the writer whose book was stolen. Irons is one of our most gifted, albeit not flamboyant actors; he's always spot on and didn't disappoint me here. Except perhaps in the gardening scene; watch it and you'll probably see what I mean. Clip clip. His old-aged makeup was really well done unless Irons is more of an old geezer than I recall. Ben Barnes who plays the younger version of the old man is an exciting young new face to watch. For me the only exception in terms of the acting, was Olivia Wilde, miscast as a lit loving grad student hanging on the every word of Clay Hammond, the best selling author played cynically by Dennis Quaid.

The major problem with the movie was the story and its ponderous format: an utterly unnecessary device which framed a story within a story within a story. I just couldn't help thinking why the heck the Dennis Quaid/Olivia Wilde scenes were even in the film. We certainly didn't need the outer framework of a writer reading his book about another writer stealing another writer's work. Yuck!
And their seduction story was just a lil' bit sleazy.

The basic theme, at what emotional cost does one cross that ethical line, is a really interesting one; I think they could have developed it more fully if they'd cut the Quaid/Wilde scenes completely. The story is the problem so it's no surprise it was written and directed by a pair of practically first timers, Ben Klugman and Lee Sternthal - they previously wrote the story (not the screenplay) the film TRON is based on. Would it surprise you to know that Cooper and Klugman went Germantown Academy, a Philadelphia high school together? Which is how the movie must have been given the greenlight in the first place. I think it's admirable that Cooper is loyal to Klugman; apparently they've helped each other fight their own personal demons over the years - the 37 year old Cooper has been straight and sober since he was 29. And I applaud Klugman and Sternthal for trying to write a serious, layered film. Unfortunately when you peel away the layers, there's not that much left to sustain you.

While I clearly can't recommend this as a great movie - or even a very good movie - I wouldn't say I hated it. I always enjoy peeking into the world of writers and any trip to Paris, even a side trip, is a good trip to Paris. And mostly not long enough. There was even a moment during the Paris in World War II scenes where I shed a tear. But I confess to crying easily, my emotional buttons are easily pushed. Ah oui, I would probably save it for a rainy netflix day.

How about you?
What are your favorite movies set - at least partially - in Paris?