Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Words Get in the Way

The Words       Final Cut Score: 70%

With the sincerest of apologies to the cliche police, from the moment The Words hits the screen, it's behind the 8-ball. Dennis Quaid reading from a book his character purportedly authored is the very definition of "suspension of disbelief".

Quaid is Clay Hammond, alleged writer of The Words, a novel about a struggling scribe, Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), who lucks upon a love story for the ages stashed inside a beat-up briefcase at a Parisian antiques shop.

Lacking the psychic skills to locate the person who penned typed the masterpiece, Rory plays off the tragic tale as his own, scoring the backing of a prestigious agent. Soon after publication, Rory is the toast of the literary universe, the fictional, fictional equivalent of Nicholas Sparks with the runaway smash, The Window Tears - AKA the worst faux book title ever.

Celebrated for something he had no creative involvement in whatsoever, Rory wrestles with the reality he's a low-down dirty fraud. His soul-torturing process of reconciliation is expedited when the true author tracks Rory down; the "Old Man" (Jeremy Irons with a suspect makeup job) giving the charlatan a piece of his brokenhearted - and plagiarized - mind.

Written and directed by Lee Sternthal and Brian Klugman (Cooper's childhood chums), it's readily apparent neither has done anything of profound importance on either end of those creative processes. The Words bounces around from Irons' recounting of his storied life to Cooper's ethical struggles to Quaid's flirtations with an author groupie (Olivia Wilde).

The story-within-a-story-within-a-story only serves to thoroughly trash any attempts of producing an even semi-linear narrative. Why not eliminate Quaid altogether and focus the film on Cooper's emotional conflict; his/our inherent need to leave a mark on this world, to thoroughly deliver on his/our God-given potential? That had the makings of something interesting as opposed to Quaid and Wilde's pointless dalliance which provides nothing sans an opportunity to run to the restroom.

While I can by no means recommend paying to see The Words, a free viewing on TBS or FX is another matter altogether. With the advent of the DVR, editing Quaid out of the film is a snap. Something the filmmakers should have already done for you.