THE WORDS (PG-13)

The Words (PG-13)

 

Movie Info

Rating:

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, Jeremy Irons, Olivia Wilde.

Writers-directors: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal.

Producers: Michael Benaroya, Tatiana Kelly, Jim Young.

A CBS Films release. Running time: 96 minutes. Vulgar language, adult themes. Playing at area theaters.


rrodriguez@MiamiHerald.com

The Words is a series of interconnected stories nestled together like a set of Russian dolls, all of them centered on the art of writing. Clay (Dennis Quaid) is a successful novelist reading from his latest bestseller to a capacity crowd (he is apparently intent on reading the entire book, which looks to be about 400 pages). Rory (Bradley Cooper) is an aspiring novelist whose first book, his agent tells him, is great but unmarketable (it’s too “interior, artistic, subtle” — all the things this movie is not). His wife Dora (Zoe Saldana) rubs his shoulders and strokes his hair in support and tells him to try again.

But Rory has lost faith in his muse: He spent three years working on that novel, and now he’s crushed and defeated. “I’m not who I thought I was,” he tells his wife, “and I’m terrified I never will be.”

Then Rory finds an unsigned manuscript inside an old satchel that turns out to be one of the best things he has ever read. A brief crisis of conscience later, he submits it as his own work and becomes a literary sensation. Sure, the book isn’t his, but there’s no guilt lots of champagne and money and adulation can’t assuage. Beside, where’s the harm? He didn’t steal the manuscript from anyone. Finders keepers, right?

I kept watching The Words waiting for the movie to make a discernable point other than these characters are a bunch of self-obsessed jerks. My hopes perked up when Jeremy Irons entered the fray as a craggy old man prone to sitting on park benches and saying such things as “We all make choices in life. The hard thing is to live with them.” You know you’re stuck in a bad movie when even the great Irons, with his commanding voice and inimitable eloquence, sounds like a twit.

The Hoax, made in 2006, told a similar story about an author (Richard Gere) who came up with an inventive (and highly illegal) way to get a book sold. That movie, which was based on the real-life case of Clifford Irving, was lively and funny and gave you an actual sense of the inner workings of the publishing industry and the difficulty of breaking into the game.

The Words was written and directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, who are longtime friends of Cooper but don’t seem to know (or care) much about their subject matter. The actor helped them get their movie made, and it’s filled with flashbacks and elegant lighting and a deadly inertia, like most movies about writing are. Even the story-within-a-story structure doesn’t pay off. This material needed more substance and ideas — and less flash and sumptuous production values. We need to have another reason to care about Rory other than the fact he can’t get his novel sold. Join the club, pal! The Words is a movie about writing and books made by people who apparently rarely read.

Read more Reeling with Rene Rodriguez stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Life Itself’:</span> Gene Siskel, left, and Roger Ebert get into one of their countless arguments during the taping of their TV show.

    Life Itself (R)

    There are scholars who blame Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel for dumbing down film criticism with their thumbs-up, thumbs-down approach, the same way they blame Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for ruining movies with the success of Jaws and Star Wars. But Siskel and Ebert accomplished just the opposite: They popularized criticism and introduced it to the masses via their PBS show in which they spent a lot of time debating (and fighting) over movies before delivering their final, yes-or-no verdict. The first version of their show, which was titled Sneak Previews and aired on PBS in the late 1970s, led me to read Pauline Kael and Film Comment and American Film and the Miami Herald’s late, great Bill Cosford as a kid. Suddenly, my nascent love of movies blew up: Movies weren’t just something you watched for entertainment. Sometimes, there was a lot to find beneath their surface.

  •  
Caesar (Andy Serkis) leads a war against mankind in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (PG-13)

    Yawn of the Planet of the Apes — excuse me, Dawn — has a big-budget sheen, a few terrific action setpieces and some of the most jaw-dropping CGI effects to date: You will believe these apes are real (although some of them are actors wearing costumes).

  •  
Chris Evans (center) and Jamie Bell (left) are about to crack some skulls aboard a speeding bullet train in “Snowpiercer.”

    Snowpiercer (R)

    In the near future, mankind attempts to solve the growing problem of global warming by shooting a missile into space that will lower the planet’s thermostat. Instead, the device plunges Earth into another ice age, killing all life except for the people on a huge bullet train that has been circling the globe for 17 years (don’t ask, just go with it).

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category