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Sundance 2012 Review: THE WORDS with Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, and Dennis Quaid

 

Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal co-wrote and co-directed The Words, a star-studded drama about a struggling young writer who steals someone's novel and publishes it as his own. It's nothing remarkable, just another fine film with good performances and an interesting premise.

The most interesting thing about the movie is the way it's structured. It opens with Dennis Quaid's character, a writer, reading his most recent book aloud to a sold out crowd. The movie spends most of the runtime with his book's imaginary characters, another writer, played by Bradley Cooper, and his wife, played by Zoe Saldana. Cooper publishes a novel originally written by Jeremy Irons' character and becomes wildly successful. Irons tracks him down and tells him the story of how he lost his book, taking the movie into a flashback format that stars Ben Barnes as a dead ringer for a young Irons. So we're three levels deep, and there's voiceover narrations from two different people going on as the movie crosscuts between levels. Back in level one, Quaid is seduced by Olivia Wilde, a grad student who wants to hear the end of the story.

As expected, the film brings up questions of ownership, identity, and the guilt associated with living a lie. It's all pretty basic stuff, and though it's all well-executed, it all feels very predictable. For me, it felt like a movie from the mid-90s that you'd watch at 2 in the afternoon on Starz. The concepts it touches on are much more interesting than what we see explored in depth in the movie, but it's still a nicely-acted serviceable multi-tiered drama. (Irons steals the show, much in the way he did in last year's Sundance flick Margin Call.) The ending sparked a debate among myself and a few colleagues, so the discussion factor should provide some interesting interpretations if you watch it with friends. I've heard CBS Films purchased the movie, so I imagine it'll be getting a theatrical release, but save your money - The Words would be just fine on a small screen at home.

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