'The Words' fail

atomictown.comSeptember 9, 2012 

It's clear the writers of The Words have faced a lot of rejection in their career, so they probably won't mind that I'm about to give them one more.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

I should be predisposed to like this movie. A lot of it is about the ongoing struggle to sell your novels, a field in which I have 10 years of expertise. In fact, I only started failing to fail to sell books earlier this year. I ought to be loaded up with sympathy for the tale of a dude who just wants to write, but everyone else is all "Well, the problem with that is you aren't very good. Please consider another line of work before you are starved by your own incompetence."

So it's pretty impressive that I wound up hating its tedious guts. In hindsight, I'm surprised my escape from the theater didn't leave a me-shaped hole through the wall. Then again, years of not selling books has left me woefully malnourished. I will now expend what little strength I have left to curse The Words's pointless existence.

Bradley Cooper just wants to be a great novelist. After years of trying, his work continues to get rejected, but all that changes after he finds a lost manuscript in Paris. The book is brilliant, heartrending. Cooper submits it as his own.

A few years later, he's the toast of the town. But his meteoric rise is jeopardized when Jeremy Irons, the book's true author, shows up to confront Cooper about his fraud.

The Words is one of the worst movies I've seen in years. A better title for it would be Old Men Telling Stories: The Movie. I'm feeling more conflict and drama deciding what grade to give it than I did at any point during its run time, and it's not like I am struggling between two wildly different points of view over here. Unless I am unaware of the crucial difference between "it blows" and "oh man, I am getting mad just thinking about it."

Jeez, is this thing screwed up. See, The Words isn't even really about Cooper. Cooper is just the main character in author Dennis Quaid's latest novel, which he's giving a reading for. Right off the bat, we're being told none of this really happened, so none of this really matters. While I commend the filmmakers for being so honest, it immediately sucks all the drama out of the room.

Not only that, but the fictional story of Cooper's tough times as an aspiring writer is regularly interrupted by huge loads of narration and breaks to check in on how Quaid's reading is going. Then once Cooper meets Irons, Irons starts telling the story of his life/book. Instead of drama, you get summaries. Summaries that stall what precious little momentum the other summaries might have built up.

Structurally, these nested stories reminded me of Dragon Wars. Except where Dragon Wars has dinosaurs with rocket launchers and ninja-wizard Robert Forster, The Words has several scenes of people reading a book and enjoying it. Action-reading!

It's very hard to convey just how boring and lifeless this movie is. It would be much easier to express this with, I don't know, a series of moving pictures that add up to the story of boredom. Meanwhile, both the dialogue and acting feel stolen from a bad play. No word on whether that play was lost in a Paris shop for 50 years.

On top of all that, The Words attempts to make a bizarre case that writing will destroy your life. Well, when your writing is this bad, I guess I'm convinced.

Grade: F

* Contact Ed Robertson at edwrobertson@gmail.com. His fiction is available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and elsewhere.

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