Movie Madness #146: The Words

Do you know all this artsy, fartsy literary types who judge and tell us what books to read? How about all those other critical literary types who reject the next great novel? How many Hemingways, Steinbecks and Kings have we lost to these self-appointed governors of literary world? And don’t even get me started about what it takes to get a screenplay turned into a film these days.

Nearly 80% of film critics hated “The Words” calling it “the most irritating movie of 2012”. I think they are all wrong and here is why.

“The Words” stars Dennis Quaid as Clayton Hammond, a celebrated author who is reading excerpts from his latest novel called “The Words”. During a break from his reading Clayton is enchanted by a feisty undergrad Daniela (Olivia Wilde) who wants to know about his process.

Clay’s story is about Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), a struggling New York writer trying to get his first book published. His faithful and devoted wife Dora (Zoe Saldana) is by his side.

On their Parisian honeymoon, Rory finds a neat old leather briefcase which his wife happily buys for him in hopes it will inspire him to keep writing. When they return to New York, Rory finds a manuscript to a wonderful novel in the briefcase. He types the story into his laptop hoping it will lead to inspiration.

Dora finds the story and insists that Rory publish it not knowing it isn’t his. Rory is stuck. Does he confess that the story isn’t his or does he publish it in hopes that it will kick start his career?

Rory chooses badly and the book is a monster success. Soon Rory can publish any book he likes. And that is when the real author of the story (Jeremy Irons) steps forward.

The film is actually three films in one. You have Dennis Quaid’s author, Bradley Cooper’s author and then the story within the controversial novel. So there you have it. It is a film about the choices we make in our lives.

“The Words” features intelligent performances from Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Ben Barnes and Dennis Quaid. The movie reminded me of why Jeremy Irons won that Oscar so many years ago for “Reversal of Fortune” after making junk like “Eragon” and “Dungeons and Dragons“, one does forget. It also once more proves why Bradley Cooper is one of Hollywood’s best leading men. He knows how to carry a story with style and substance. I was also impressed with Ben Barnes and I really yearn to see him become a leading man.

My only small problems with the film is how I wanted to spend more time within the plagiarized story. I wanted to see more of the wartime romance between Ben Barnes and Nora Arnezeder. I could see why Bradley Cooper’s character was so in love with this tragic story. And I think it was that connection that made me cheer for the film. I wanted to know more and was captivated.

I think what many critics missed was that each of the stories is about choices and the film isn’t trying to be clever even though there is one nagging question I had at the end of it. Was Rory and Clayton the same person?

But I think critics were looking for something deeper here when this story was told much like say “The Notebook” or “Fried Green Tomatoes”. Or any other film made from a Nicholas Sparks novel. Story within a story and a generational connection. Sometimes critics really have to just sit back and enjoy a film and not always go for art for the sake of art.

Take legendary artist Picasso and famed movie poster artist Drew Struzan. Both are extraordinary artists but one in the art scene and the other in pop culture. But anyone can recognize the genius in both. But a stuffy art critic might tell you that Struzan’s work doesn’t belong in a museum. He’d be wrong. Struzan was ahead of his time and changed the way motion pictures were marketed starting with 1977’s “Star Wars”.

Sometimes a Picasso is a Picasso and sometimes its just a bucket of popcorn and a good story.

4 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer

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