- By David M. Kinchen
Flying in under the radar, “The Words” (97 minutes, PG-13) landed at our twin-screen theater in Port Lavaca, TX and I made a point of seeing it — if only to determine if its Rotten Tomatoes rating was deserved. For those who pay attention to such matters, the film, written and directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal and starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, Ben Barnes and Jeremy Irons, garnered a 19% rating at the Rotten Tomatoes critics site.
As a critic myself, I don’t care what others say — so here’s my advice: Forget about what critics say and check out this flick — if you can find it. If you liked Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” as I did, I think you’ll enjoy a film about a struggling writer, Rory Jansen (Cooper in a role as far from his “Hangover” flicks as possible) who strikes literary pay dirt through a lucky — or unlucky — discovery. Just about everything in the plot is a spoiler, so I’ll avoid mentioning anything other than that the film’s McGuffin, to use Hitchcock’s word, is a vintage briefcase that Dora Jansen (Saldana) buys her husband on their honeymoon in Paris.
The plot element involving Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) at first confuses then — for me at least — pushes the story forward. Hammond explains what Rory Jansen did. Daniella, the young student and aspiring writer played by Olivia Wilde who meets Hammond at the book party for Hammond’s book “The Words” is eye candy, although her prompting does push the plot forward. The whole Hammond-Daniella plot point is awkward.
Jeremy Irons and Ben Barnes, who plays the young Irons character in Paris at the end of World War II, both turn in excellent performances. Forget about the carping of some critics about the aging makeup used on Irons. After all, the “old man” — no name is assigned to the Irons character — would be almost 90 today and is entitled to his wrinkles.
The Hemingway references in the Paris scenes, with a copy of “The Sun Also Rises” on the “young man’s” bookshelves reminded me of a real incident involving Hemingway and Hadley Richardson, his first wife. In 1921, Hemingway’s writing career suffered a setback when Hadley lost a bag containing the manuscript and all the carbon copies of his first novel on a train in Paris.
J.K. Simmons turns in a workmanlike performance as Rory’s dad. Zeljko Ivanek, who seems to be in every dramatic movie these days, is excellent as Joseph Cutler, Rory’s publisher.
You might have to see the movie twice, but I think you’ll enjoy it. I’m going to buy the DVD when it comes out.