The Words casts Dennis Quaid as author Clay Hammond, who is reading excerpts of his book, The Words to scholastic muckety mucks of some sort.
As he reads the words of The Words, you are treated to the story within the story. And that story has a story within.
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Bradley Cooper is Hammond's book's character, Rory Jansen. He is a struggling author whose work is good but not quite good enough. On their honeymoon in Paris, he and his beautiful bride, Dora -- played wonderfully by Avatar's Zoe Saldana -- pick up an old brief case at an Ernest Hemingway antique store. Hidden in the briefcase is a manuscript.
It is a book he wished he could write, but it's written beyond his ability.
The manuscript is powerful, pointed, perfect and irresistible. One night, he puts each line of the manuscript on pages in his computer. He merely wants the experience of typing something so profound.
Dora finds the book, believes Rory wrote it and urges him to submit the manuscript. He does and becomes a literary star compelled to live with his secret. It's uncomfortable, but he manages.
Then Rory meets the old man. Jeremy Irons' (Margin Call) character has no name. On a park bench he tells Rory the story within the story inside the story.
The manuscript Rory discovered in the briefcase -- he says -- is his book. He explains how it came about. After World War II, the old man, an American, met the love of his life. She's a Parisian. Their love story is beautiful but tragic -- and best of all -- compelling.
It's that love story and that tragedy that inspired the book.
The story bounces back and forth between Rory and Quaid's Hammond. Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy) is Danielle. She's waaaayyyy too young for Hammond but comes on to him strong. He bites. They do an uncomfortable and not quite believable romantic chess game and Q&A that leads to the film's climax.
There are three good things about The Words. Two of the love stories are the best in a long time; the script is exceptional and the acting superb. I recommend it for those three reasons. Best of all is the story within the story's story. Ben Barnes (The Chronicles of Narnia) plays the old man as a young man, and Nora Arnezeder does his wife. Their story is truly touching and powerful.
I am also going to rave about the acting. That's with a capital "R." Cooper, Saldana, Quaid and Wilde are excellent, but it is Irons, Barnes and Arnezeder who ratchet things up a notch and set the second love story on fire.
Hopefully, at award time someone remembers both Irons -- who always is brilliant -- and Barnes.
However, The Words has a downside. A way down, down side. Co-writers/co-directors Brian Klugman (nephew to Jack Klugman of TV's The Odd Couple and Quincy) and Lee Sternthal -- who both developed the story idea for Tron: Legacy -- have nowhere to go after all the plot details are revealed and the crisis is more or less solved. The film implodes and dilutes the power of the acting, the stories and the wonderful words of the script that make up The Words.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Directors: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
Writers: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthan
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Dennis Quaid, Ben Barnes, Nora Arnezeder, J.K. Simmons
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It is playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and the Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.