where the writers are
The Words

a film review
by Jeanne Powell

An intriguing surprise awaits the viewer of “The Words,” first screened at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. A multi-layered story line which keeps you interested features characters who speak without profanity, conversation instead of violence, and genuine chemistry in the love scenes instead of mechanical nudity.

Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) knows he has a novel (or two) in him and plans his life so he can write until others recognize his literary worth. Dora his wife (Zoe Saldana) believes in him from the moment they meet, and their chemistry is wonderful. What’s not to like about people who love the word and spend their days and nights surrounded by the artistic life in New York and Paris?

The problem is that Rory’s manuscripts do not impress those who hold the power to publish him; and his money – actually his long-suffering father’s money –  is running out. A chance encounter with someone else’s writing, an anonymous manuscript found in a leather attaché case from another century, challenges his ethics and changes his life forever.

Who actually wrote the manuscript entitled “The Window Tears” and published under Rory Jansen’s name? Who is the old man, played by Jeremy Irons, who stands in the rain and watches as Jansen moves through his newly charmed life, who sits next to Jansen on a park bench reading John Fante’s “Ask the Dust?”

Years later Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid) reads to an attentive audience from his latest novel, “The Words.” We are curious about what Hammond actually knows as he reads selections with a quiet arrogance. Is this a work of fiction, wherein he talks of Rory Jansen’s dishonor?  Is it a scandalous story Hammond stumbled upon, or did he actually live it?

The distinguished actor Jeremy Irons is fascinating as the workingclass veteran who cannot let go of his World War II memories in France, his French wife ( Nora Anezeder) and his solitary manuscript. To whom do the words belong now? And who is to write the sequel which the old man recounts when Rory Jansen tracks him down?

This story within a story within a story is well put together in a relatively short film with haunting music and lovely photography. The performances all work. Zoe Saldana is sensational as the patient and passionate wife who wants her husband to be recognized for his talent. Bradley Cooper moves from quiet confidence to panic to temptation and then descends into deep remorse as his life picks up speed before his unbelieving eyes with the publication of the manuscript. “It was supposed to be a little book….” All he wanted, Jansen said, was to feel the words pass through his fingers, through his mind.

The film effectively utilizes flashbacks to the young veteran's life in the rear echelon of the American army in France, how he meets his wife  Celia, the tragedies which befall them, and his fateful decision.  Tantalizing moments weave together seamlessly as Jeremy Irons reveals his tale scene by scene. Ben Barnes is excellent as the youthful veteran, a much younger Irons.

Olivia Wilde’s character may be an aspiring writer or a literary groupie or the Muse herself; she gently stalks Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid) at a book signing for “The Words” and later in his apartment. As they flirt and word-dance, does she provoke him into remembering, or does he mine her judgments for his next novel?

Zoe Saldana enchanted us with her portrayal of Neytiri, the alien heroine in James Cameron’s 2009 film, “Avatar."

Jeremy Irons has given inspiring performances since the television adaptation of “Love for Lydia” in 1977 and his role in “The French Lieutenant’s Woman," a 1981 film.

Dennis Quaid’s excellent film credits include “The Big Easy” in 1986 with Ellen Barkin, “Far From Heaven” in 2002 with Julianne Moore, and “Vantage Point” in 2008 with Forest Whitaker.

Bradley Cooper trained for and appeared on the New York stage before working in cable television series for a while.  His feature films include “Changing Lanes” in 2002 with Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson.

One character in "The Words" asks, must you choose between life and fiction?  Do they ever touch? Or is it that you cannot really separate them?  Drama, mystery, romance, compelling moments – they’re all here. This is not a great film by first time directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, but it is a good one  and well worth seeing.    

see also http://sidewalkstv.com/web