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.
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