What would you do to get the life you always wanted? This is a question that we ask one another from time to time, mostly just for fun as the usual answer is more often than not, “I’d do anything.” But would you really? Would it be worth it? Sure there may be fame, even fortune involved, but could you live with yourself knowing that you achieved those things not through your own skills or talent, but by taking a shortcut that may ultimately affect the lives of others without you even realizing it?
These are some of the main questions indirectly asked in The Words, a film co-written and co-directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. Now right off the bat the movie spoke to me, as it’s about a struggling writer who is trying to find his voice in the world of literature. That writer is Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), and he works at his craft every night, while spending the days with his significant other, Dora (Zoe Saldana), just enjoying life. Now, Rory isn’t rich – in fact, he’s far from it. No, instead he visits his father (J.K. Simmons) every so often in order to get a “loan” so that they can pay rent and survive a few extra months.
Soon, Rory must put his writing to the side and find a job so that he and Dora can move forward, get married, and support themselves. While on their honeymoon in Paris, Rory finds and old leather briefcase, and Dora buys it for him as a gift so he can use it at work. Later, while transferring his things to his new briefcase, Rory finds a folder with typed up papers inside of it wedged into one of the sleeves of the briefcase. What he discovers is an old novel, which he reads in one sitting and is completely floored.
The novel haunts him, as it speaks to him on an internal level whispering “You’ll never be good enough to write something like me,” and he can’t handle it. This leads to one of the best lines in the movie, where Rory just flat out tells his wife, “I’m not who I thought I was, and I’m terrified that I never will be.” It’s this line that really hit home with me, and I’m sure it’s the line that many can relate with on some level. It’s a movie about a writer doubting his ability, wondering where his place in the world really is; but I’m sure many feel this in their own lives, in their own way as well, regardless of profession.
Just wanting to feel what it’s like to write something so powerful, Rory retypes the entire book he found onto his computer one night in a moment of writing passion. Content when he is finished, he closes his computer and leaves it at that. When he returns home later that day, his wife embraces him, and starts oozing praise about the book he wrote, which she accidentally found while looking for something on his computer. As he tries to explain what he did, he sees how emotional she is, how much she wants him to submit it to a publisher, and how bad he wants to be able to make her proud. It’s here that Rory makes a decision that will change their lives forever.
Now, this isn’t the only story happening in The Words. There are actually three stories taking place, and they’re all intertwined in some way. It’s a story within a story within a story, though we’re not talking any sort of Inception type twists and turns here, as it’s much more simple than that. The film starts with author Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) at a book reading, where he’s reading chapters from his latest book, “The Words.”
His book is about Rory and Dora, two characters he created and the choices they made that drastically changed their lives over time. Within that story is the tale of a young man (Ben Barnes) and his first and only love, Celia (Nora Arnezeder), which took place during World War II. That story just happens to be the one that Rory finds stuck within the confines of his briefcase. As Hammond tells the story, more and more is revealed about the characters within his book, their choices, and the impact that everything they do has on their lives and the lives of those around them.
The film itself is incredibly addicting, and I found myself just eating up all aspects of it from start to finish. This intense engrossment may be due to the fact that I relate with the writing portion more than others, so I can’t say if that will be the case for all; however, the overall theme and messages throughout are ones that many can relate with, and the film is just entertaining as a whole regardless.
Klugman and Sternthal really nail the look of this film, which is simple, yet still visually stimulating. The stories are told extremely well together, and they never hold on one too long, or allow the film to drag on by needlessly adding things that don’t matter to the overall story. Each piece has got its own unique voice, and yet they flow seamlessly together. The pacing is set perfectly, changing up just enough to keep you interested and invested in each story for their own reasons.
On the acting front Bradley Cooper will likely be seeing a bump in his popularity after his recent Oscar nomination, and this film helps showcase why that nomination came to be. I’ve been a fan of Cooper since way back in his TV days on Alias, and it’s good to see him getting the recognition he deserves, as he’s definitely one of the top young talents in the industry today.
His chemistry with Saldana is strong, and the two are easily believable as a young couple in love trying to carve their path in life. Quaid also does some great work here, and his scenes alongside Olivia Wilde (who plays Daniella, a young fan of Hammond’s work) work well, and help move the story along even after Hammond is finished his public readings. Jeremy Irons plays an old man who confronts Rory about his discovery, and tells a story about his life, and the love he once felt with a woman when he was younger. Needless to say, Irons is a treat as usual.
The Words is a great dramatic piece filled with intriguing questions and scenarios that may sometimes have you feeling as though you’re looking in the mirror. The story is well told and engaging, and the acting is top-notch; so if you’re in the mood for something that’s looks to tell a tale about life, and how it doesn’t always take us in the direction we thought it would, then The Words is definitely something you should seek out.
The video transfer for the film looks fantastic. Everything is crisp, clear and looks extremely detailed due to just how much comes through in this Blu-ray. The audio mix is also quite strong, with a fantastic dialogue edit, and perfect sound effect and overall audio mix.
Unabridged: A Look Behind the Scenes of The Words – This featurette is about eight and a half minutes in length and basically sees the cast and crew talking about the film, what interested them in it, and how the story came to be.
A Gentleman’s Agreement – This is a quick featurette that’s under two minutes in length and basically touches on how Klugman, Sternthal and Cooper all came together to work on the film.
Clay and Daniella – This piece is just over a minute in length and is a quick look at the characters of Clay and Daniella.
The Young Man and Celia – Another brief piece that’s just over a minute in length that looks at these two characters.
The Words made profit during its theatrical run; however, it’s still a film that many likely haven’t heard of. Hopefully Bradley Cooper’s recent Oscar nomination will change that, as this is a film that is definitely worth seeking out – spread the word.
CBS Films Presents The Words. Written and Directed by: Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Ben Barnes, Nora Arnezeder. Running time: 103 minutes. Rating: PG. Released: December 28, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.