The Words | Movie review
Bradley Cooper plays another fiction writer in a multitiered drama.
Stories within stories within more stories: The Words nests its narratives like Russian dolls; crack each chronicle open, and there’s another one inside. At a swanky book event, Dennis Quaid’s literary hotshot reads aloud from his latest page-turner. His words become images, and suddenly we’re inside the novel, watching years fly by in the life of a struggling writer (Bradley Cooper, again improbably cast—after Limitless—as a merchant of prose). On his Parisian honeymoon, Cooper’s character stumbles upon a yellowed, handwritten manuscript; in a fit of envy and desperation, he slaps his own name on this anonymous masterpiece, kick-starting his career in the process. It isn’t long, of course, before we’re thrust into another yarn, about a WWII veteran who once wrote a tome of his own…
In its best moments, The Words taps into an almost universal affliction: the deep-seated fear, familiar to wordsmiths of all walks, that your best will never be quite good enough. Writers in the audience will surely relate, while simultaneously wondering why such a simple story of one man’s artistic theft—as well as his subsequent guilt and shame—had to be divided into so many layers. The connections among the film’s various plot strands are painfully obvious; by the time a grizzled Jeremy Irons saunters in, ready to dole out a comeuppance, perceptive viewers will have mentally flipped to the last page of this exceedingly predictable tale.