The Words
By Brendan Cheney With on February 02, 2012

A blockbuster cast was one of the things that drew me to this movie. Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde and Jeremy Irons seem like a compilation of actors that could get in each others' way, but they actually work very well together. The brilliant aspect of this movie is the layers of narration. The "real world" story is Clay (Dennis Quaid) reading an exempt from his future novel about Rory (Bradley Cooper) and his wife (Zoe Saldana). In the course of this story, Jeremy Irons begins to tell a narrative to Rory, creating a third level. One of the people I saw this movie with commented that it's the Inception of narrative. I loved this film because the multiple layers is not artistic for the sake of doing it, but rather the story within a story format truly develops and connects the characters. Ultimately, the story is about Clay (through he gets less screen time than the other two narratives). The other two story lines are designed to inform the audience about Clay's struggles and current life situation. This is developed brilliantly through some key statements about Rory's life, which mirrors some of the struggles in Clay's. This movie was really rich with thoughts regarding human limitations, self worth, and the drive for success. Perhaps the biggest issue raised in "The Words" is what do we love more, our work or the people in our lives. Many of the characters are forced to choose which is more valuable for them, people or accomplishments. The film raised that question for me as well. Exactly what are we willing to sacrifice for accomplishment? In the film, Rory is never happier than when he has yet to accomplish anything. He and his wife live a simple life in a small apartment and they enjoy their lives. Once Rory tastes success, he cannot go back to that simple life; he cannot get everything back in the box. "The Words" is absolutely worth seeing; I plan to watch it a few more times because it was so rich with questions and metaphor, but it lacks the pretentious nature of so many other analysis films. Make sure you catch this one at some point, though it doesn't have to be on the big screen.

About the Author: Brendan Cheney

2 Responses to "The Words"

  1. My thoughts are more about what the experience of watching this film was like, rather than the content of the film itself. I saw this film last week during its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

    Watching the words was a very different Sundance experience. After seeing so many movies that clearly fit the bill of “independent” film, watching The Words was a lot more like a mainstream movie-going experience, with an all-star cast and a big budget production feel. Even the theater it was screened in (Eccles) made it seem like a “regular” movie experience because of the huge crowd that seemed different from the crowds in other movies that now had really come together to see the big stars that showed up for the premiere. Also interesting was that most of the stars showed up for the screening, however, they showed up right before the movie started and then left immediately after the Q & A. They did not make themselves available to the crowd, which made sense because many people were only interested in getting their picture or autograph. Aside from these external factors, the film itself was interesting in its origin. According to the co-directors, this movie was initially submitted to the screenwriting workshop at Sundance in the year 2000, making this movie a 12-year project. The end result was interesting because it was a compelling story, made more compelling by the great cast, but I was left somewhat underwhelmed by the complete product given what they seemingly had to work with. This was underscored by the powerful films I saw that week that had less stellar casts, lower budgets, and much shorter writing and production timelines.

    The layers involved in the story were powerful, and a number of underlying messages would certainly keep most viewers interested, but the origin behind the film for me was most compelling and the end result somewhat less so.

    by Daniel Martinez on Feb 5th, 2012 at 6:50 pm
  2. The Words was the one ‘blockbuster-esque’ movie I took in at Sundance.  The movie was the story of an
    aspiring writer that found an old manuscript of an unpublished book, and publishes it as his own work.  He receives incredible renown, and ends up meeting the man who authored and lost the book when he was young, which brings him to a crisis point.  The impact on his career, integrity, wife, and future of this choice rippled through the audience as he grappled with what he should do.  The story itself provides twists and turns, even in the way it is told, and it comes together in a powerful way at the end.  This drama allows us to reflect on the ways our choices form us, and the fragility of our relationships and integrity. 

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