March 27, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 35°F


Review: ‘The Words’ tells a captivating story

Though plagiarism isn’t new to the field of writing, directors and screenwriters Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal’s drama, “The Words,” adds an original spin to a hackneyed concept.

The film begins as author Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) reads his fiction novel, “The Words,” on a visit in a New York lecture hall. He tells the story of Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), a young man who moves into a New York City apartment with his girlfriend Dora (Zoe Saldana) in hopes of becoming a writer. When Rory and Dora get married, the couple spends their honeymoon in Paris, where Rory purchases  a briefcase containing a finished manuscript, unbeknownst to him. When Rory discovers the manuscript inside, he becomes spurred by his ambition to publish his first novel and makes a Faustian deal with himself — to market the manuscript as his own and become a bestselling author.

Though the plot may seem trite and cliché at first, the movie becomes more interesting with the appearance of Jeremy Irons, who plays the old man who wrote the original manuscript. Irons provides some of the most captivating scenes in the film, such as when he confronts Rory about his book, with an excellent mix of sarcasm and bitterness. Irons’ narration of his past life also comes at a pivotal point of the film, holding the audience’s interest just when the film starts to become boring and chock-full of clichés.

Ben Barnes, who plays Irons’ younger self, also gives an excellent performance. Not only does the English actor perform with a solid American accent, but Barnes also brings sincerity to the writer role that Cooper seems to lack. For example, in the scenes where Barnes is writing his novel, he types furiously on his typewriter, reads his manuscript or is editing. Meanwhile, parallel scenes where Cooper stares blankly at his laptop screen feel flat.

Though Cooper does a decent job in his role, he sometimes comes across as more of a petulant child rather than a writer. In one scene, he abandons his writing in favor of being with his wife. In another scene, he begs his father for money. Cooper’s performance as Rory is believable, but Barnes’ performance and story resonate more with the viewer.

“The Words” is very artistic, from Klugman and Sternthal’s multi-layered script to Marcelo Zarvos’ music, which provides a beautiful and haunting atmospheric background to most of the movie. The imagery, including the picturesque cobblestone sidewalks in Paris and the lush green parks in New York City’s Central Park, is also vibrant and visually stunning.

Like a good novel, “The Words” transports the viewer on a journey through time. The pages of this book jump to life, and Klugman and Sternthal are wonderful storytellers who weave together a charming and romantic drama.

Overall rating: 2 1/2 stars

When a man finds a completed manuscript, he tries to pass it off as his own before he gets confronted by the original author.