Books Magazine

Movie Review: The Words

By Storycarnivores @storycarnivores

Movie Review: The WordsTitle: The Words
Directed by: Brian Klugman
Distributed by: CBS Films
Release Date: September 7, 2012
Rated: PG-13

Synopsis: A writer at the peak of his literary success discovers the steep price he must pay for stealing another man’s work. (Via IMDB)

Shaunta: The Words is one of those movies that, for me anyway, wasn’t all I’d hope it would be, but also wasn’t nearly as bad as the big-shot reviewers made it out to be.

It’s basically a movie about a writer, telling the story about a writer, telling the story about another writer who wrote a book about a writer.

The disappointment comes from the story line being too complicated.

Dennis Quaid plays an author who is giving a reading from his book, The Words. The book is about another writer, this time Bradley Cooper, who found an old manuscript and passed it off as his own and then is confronted by the read writer, an old nameless man played by Jeremy Irons. Jeremy Irons then tells a WWII-era story about his experience writing and then losing the book, which is about a writer.

The problem is with the Dennis Quaid bit, in my opinion. While there is some ambiguity at the end, for the vast majority of the movie the watcher is aware that they are watching something doubly not true. A movie about a fiction. We aren’t supposed to suspend our disbelief, and so we don’t. Sadly.

With all of that being said, there was one thing that for me, as a writer, this movie did very right. It absolutely captured the essence of what it feels like to want something so badly–publication–and to work toward and work toward it, and never really know until it happens (if it happens) whether or not you’ll be successful.  Spending months, or even years, on a manuscript, only to find you can’t sell it. And then doing that again. And again. And all the time wondering if you should just go find a nice, normal nine-to-five somewhere. There is a quiet desperation to being a not-yet-successful author. Your only two choices are to quit or to keep writing on the blind hope that you’ll write something that someone will connect with and want to champion. During these years, the only thing worse than reading something and knowing in your heart that you could have written circles around it is reading something and realizing that you will never write anything that approaches it.

So, what if  you’re a writer and you find an old manuscript, and it’s Harper Lee good? Hemingway good. What if your wife reads it and assumes that you wrote it, and in tears of joy tells you that it blows everything else you’ve ever written out of the water. What if you’re good enough that you’re pretty certain you’ll be able to follow it up? That’s the essence of this story, mixed in with a little bit of what if you wrote that Heminigway-level story and lost it?  Ignore the bookended bits with Denis Quaid and you’ll enjoy this movie a lot better.

I’d say wait for Redbox, unless you’re into cinematography. This is a visually beautiful movie with lots of great scenes in Paris.

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