Saturday, September 29, 2012

“The Words” – A tale of two stories.

The Words is one of the few movies I’ve seen in the past couple of years where my wife accompanied me to the theater. I usually like to see big, noisy, seizure-inducing, special effects-laden movies in theaters because it helps me justify the ticket price. Unfortunately, these movies also give my wife lasting headaches, which is not a good thing for so many different reasons (you married guys know what I’m talking about). But I like going to movies with her, so when she says “I want to see movie X,” I happily agree and immediately find a show time before something else can give her a headache. Since the time she said “I want to see Bridesmaids,” I’ve paid a little more attention to that X (and so has she), but I was perfectly fine with seeing The Words.

(Considering the very low box office total, I’m guessing you haven’t seen this movie. If you intend to, stop reading now. Seriously, stop.)

After seeing the previews, I was actually looking forward to this movie. From what they showed us, I was expecting a somewhat dark movie where Jeremy Irons stalks/harasses Bradley Cooper after discovering that Cooper had published a story as his own that was actually written by Irons. What I got instead was a tepid film with little drama, no darkness, and very little stalking. Plus, that whole story is actually a fiction – a book being read by its author at a book reading. I think they intended on this being a big reveal, except it falls flat due to being one of the first thing you see when the film begins. Say it with me – bwaaaa?

Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid) is reading portions of his new book, The Words, to an audience at a reading. His book is about a struggling writer, Rory (Cooper), who finds a story in an antique satchel that his wife, Dora (Zoe Saldana), bought for him. One night, he types the story out on his laptop, just to experience the feeling of writing something so moving. While he’s away, Dora reads it, then tells him how proud she if of him when he returns. Instead of telling her the truth, he takes the book to his publisher, who also loves it and, subsequently publishes it. The book is a hit, Rory becomes famous, and a few years later, the original author (Jeremy Irons) discovers the book and confronts Rory in the park.

At this point, we get the second story of the film – Irons’ story about how he came to write the story that Rory found. It’s interesting and there are lots of parallels to Rory’s life, but after he finishes telling the story, he walks away. No threats to sue Rory, no attempts at blackmail, he just wanted to tell Rory where the story came from. Later, Rory tracks him down and tries to make things right, at which point Irons gets very mad and talks about the pain the story has caused him. I fully expected him to tell Rory that the pain is now his and Rory would have to live with the lie and the pain for the rest of his life. Nope. The fiction ends and we are thrust back to Hammond, who we’ve seen interspersed throughout the film, telling his story and developing a dialogue with Daniella (Olivia Wilde), an avid fan looking to undress Hammond both figuratively and literally. More parallels are shown, Hammond inexplicably turns down Daniella, and the movie ends. Here’s a word – unsatisfied.

After discussing the film with my wife, I’m fairly certain that we watched two different movies. For starters, she liked the movie a lot more than I did. She also interpreted the film differently than I. She saw the Hammond angle as inferring that Hammond was Rory. I saw it as Hammond being the young Irons, inferring to Daniella that his own marriage failed because he loved writing more than his wife. The good news here is that the movie allows for many interpretations. The bad news is that there seems to be a lot of parallels between all of the stories, but aren’t very apparent to the viewer. The bottom line is that the movie is decent, but depending on what you are looking for, may or may not leave you wanting. More importantly, my wife left the film happy and headache-free and that’s never a bad thing.

Rating: My wife says ask for no money back. I say … yes.

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