‘The Words’ tell a captivating story

The story behind “The Words” is not new. Earlier this month, Jade Bonacolta, a Columbia University student and the Columbia Spectator’s former associate arts and entertainment editor, plagiarized Robin Pogrebin’s New York Times article. Earlier this summer, Time Magazine’s Fareed Zakaria was caught plagiarizing Jill Lepore’s New Yorker article in his column on gun control. Although adopting another writer’s work as one’s own isn’t new, directors and screenwriters Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal film adds an original spin to an unoriginal concept.

The film begins as author Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) is reading his fiction novel, “The Words,” on an author visit in a New York university. He is telling the story of Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), a young man who moved 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 inherits a briefcase containing a finished script. Spurred by his ambition to publish his first novel, Rory makes a Faustian deal with himself — marketing the script as his own, and becoming a bestselling author.

Although 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 script. Irons provides some of the most captivating scenes in the film, such as when he confronts Cooper 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 chalk full of clichés.

Ben Barnes, who plays Irons’ younger self, also gives an excellent performance. Not only does the English actor give 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 is seen typing furiously into his typewriter, or reading his script, or scratching things out. Meanwhile, parallel scenes when Cooper is staring blankly at his laptop screen feel flat.

Although Cooper did a decent job in his role, he sometimes comes across as more of a petulant child rather than a writer. For example, in one scene, he abandons his writing in favor of hooking up with his wife. In another scene, he begs his father for money. Cooper is mostly believable as a writer who would plagiarize, but Barnes’ performance and story resonates 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.

“The Words” is directed and written by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal.

To see this post published in The Ithacan, click here.

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The Great ‘Charlie Bartlett’

Who ever said you can’t buy friends? Well, as seventeen-year-old Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) finds out, popularity isn’t as “priceless” as the MasterCard commercials would have you believe.

The film, “Charlie Bartlett,” follows a wealthy, enterprising teenager and his quest to be well-liked. When no fancy prep school would take him anymore (the last one expelled him for creating and distributing fake I.D.’s), Charlie is sent to public school — where he gets beat up. That is, until he discovers that obtaining and dealing prescription medications (from Ritalin to Xanax) — and giving advice to other misunderstood, teenagers — can become quite a lucrative business.

For playing a posh, rich kid, Anton Yelchin is quite earnest and likeable as Charlie Bartlett. Perhaps it’s his friendly smile and the manner and number of times in which he would repeat, “Hi, I’m Charlie.” (If Yelchin wasn’t quite so charming and charismatic, he might be mistaken for remedial.) Or perhaps it’s how he could seamlessly rattle off Latin and French; sing and play the piano; and recite a monologue of how he got his period. Yelchin is like the “Great Gatsby” from Nick Carraway’s eyes (only Yelchin doesn’t call everyone, “old sport.”) He’s talented, excelling in the ability of making the audience feel empathy for a poor, rich kid. He has this boyish, All-American, Tom Sawyer quality about him — that if you talked to him long enough, he could probably get you to whitewash the white-picket fence for him. Yet at the same time, Yelchin can be very mature, offering proper insight and sage advice on the inner workings of the teenaged mind.

Yelchin, and the excellent actors in the cast, carry the film. Robert Downey Jr. is the antagonistic Principal Rooney character to Yechin’s Ferris Bueller. However, Downey Jr., as Principal Gardner, brings very real issues (like depression and alcoholism) to this Wiley E. Coyote/Roadrunner relationship. Hope Davis, who is most recently known for playing tabloid writer Nina Harper in Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom,” is also excellent as Yelchin’s flighty mother who’s been depressed since her husband went to jail. The rest of the characters also hit their notes (i.e. Tyler Hilton of “One Tree Hill” fame resembles “Glee”‘s bully Noah Puckerman, played by Mark Sailing; while Kat Dennings has this Drew Barrymore, girl next door quality about her), but aren’t as memorable next to Yelchin, Downey Jr. and Davis’ nuanced performances.

The juxtaposition of the charm and sincerity of the film brings the playful and deeper nature of “Charlie Bartlett” to life. Director Jon Poll’s film captures some of the themes and nostalgia of John Hughes’ classics. “Charlie Bartlett” seems to be a cross between “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “The Breakfast Club,” portraying Yelchin as a trouble-making Ferris Bueller-type character, while showing that its OK for teenagers to break away from their stereotypical cliques. (For example, the football captain really wants to go to Paris and study art, while the school bully wants to take the most popular girl in school to a dinner and movie.) And although popularity isn’t priceless, perhaps being able to talk to someone about your problems is.

“Charlie Bartlett” was written by Gustin Nash and directed by Jon Poll.