The Harbinger Online

“The Words” Struggles to Avoid Cliché Plot

[media-credit name=”www.imbd.com” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]From the first seconds of its teaser trailer, “The Words” had me hooked. The pairing of a seemingly intellectual plot focused on writing and a star-studded cast enticed me. I was in a flutter to see the movie and arrived at the theatre this weekend with high expectations. The promise of a sensitive character study focusing on writing and the ethics (and consequences) of plagiarism seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to use my free passes to Cinemark.

Let me blunt: I was wrong.

It’s not that the movie wasn’t good. It was. But it wasn’t great, it wasn’t intellectual and it definitely was not half as life-changing as advertised.

The film starts with a high-end book reading led by author Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid). He reads his latest book, “The Words,” narrating the story of Rory (Bradley Cooper) and Dora Jansen (Zoe Saldana). In a cliché fashion, the couple live in a gutted flat in New York City. They sleep on a twin mattress on the grimy floor so that Rory can pursue his writing career.

At this point, I became dubious. For a movie declared to be fresh, intelligent and high brow, I was already overwhelmed by the hodge podge of one cheesy scene after another on the screen. Video montages of rejection letters piling up. The ever-present theme that the couple loves each other too much to notice their hardships. A confrontation between Rory and his father over the practicality of his career.

[media-credit name=”www.imbd.com” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]By the time we reached Rory and Dora’s honeymoon, I was rather frustrated with the movie as a whole. The entire story seemed to be turning into a typical, cheesy romance, heartwarming but not at all challenging or creative.

Of course, the pair chose Paris as their vacation destination, despite their meager means. And of course, while stepping into a quaint antique store, Rory pulls a tattered briefcase from a shelf and decides to buy it. A few weeks later, while putting papers into the bag, he pulls out a yellowed manuscript and spends the rest of the day reading.

He has discovered a story of breathtaking quality, a story that makes him question his abilities as a writer. And in the middle of a sleepless night, Rory decides to type up the entire story, word for word. After Dora finds the story on the laptop, she demands that Rory turn it into a publisher, thinking that the words belong to Rory and not an anonymous author.

In short, Rory gets published, his stolen book becomes a hit and he is soon rather rich, famous and well-awarded. The plot plods along in a predictable fashion. Then everything changes when he meets the old man (Jeremy Irons) who actually wrote his book.

I was bored and contemplating taking a short nap when Irons started his story. And suddenly, I was jolted to complete attentiveness by the best piece of storytelling in the entire movie.

Acted out by Ben Barnes and Nora Arnezeder, the story is about as original as the rest of the movie. A young soldier goes to Paris at the end of WWII, meets the French girl of his dreams and, despite being called back to the States, finds a way to stay with her and marry her.

[media-credit name=”www.imbd.com” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit] Yet I cried for them. I’m not sure why, but this single section of the movie was more poignant and simply moving than any other. Details of Paris and the couple’s simple flirtations paired with the raw, jarring scenes of their pain over their child’s death made the overly-cheesy beginning worth the wait. The camera work was breathtaking, the costuming and music seemed to capture the essence of the time period and in less than 20 minutes, the actors had won my heart.

Returning to the cheesy, simple plot and characters after those 20 minutes of greatness was very difficult. At the movie’s conclusion, I felt cheated. There was an infuriating amount of potential in the film, but all of the quality script was spent on the young man and his wife, Celia. After the depth that was communicated through the characters of the young soldier and his wife, Celia, in such a short period of time, Rory and Clay, along with their female counterparts, were unfinished and unpolished.

It’s not bad. It’s not great. “The Words” sits somewhere in between. It’s not nearly as good as expected, but if you need a good chick flick, put it on your list of rentals. In the meantime, I’d skip this film and keep looking for Oscar-worthy nominations.

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