I didn’t really know much about this movie, so I went in with little expectation. Based on a different version of the poster that focused on Cooper and Saldana, I had assumed this would be more of a romantic drama, but Saldana isn’t really the focus of this film. The Words is a tricky movie to summarize. It’s an author who finds an old manuscript and sells it as if he wrote it. But the man who actually wrote it ends up finding him. What the opening moments of the film tell you however… is that this is all part of a book that’s written by Dennis Quaid’s character. So it’s Dennis Quaid narrating the story of Bradley Cooper who stole a story from Jeremy Irons/Ben Barnes.
Bradley Cooper carries this film almost entirely on his own, as it is really about that characters’ struggle to be the man he thinks he should be. And once he steals the manuscript and is confronted by the man who actually wrote it, you can see his conscience eating away at him. I haven’t seen Cooper stretch a lot of these acting muscles before so I was pretty impressed. Even though he carries the film, that doesn’t mean the supporting characters are any less impressive.
Jeremy Irons is fantastic, as is his younger counterpart played by Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian). Both men exude regret and pain, both as it happens (Barnes) and as he reflects upon it (Irons). Dennis Quaid really just serves as a narrator throughout most of the film, but in the final moments, he gets the chance to shine. The ladies in the film (Wilde/Saldana) are both good, serving as catalysts to keep the plot moving.
And while the story within a story within a story concept might seem confusing, this movie knows when to focus on what. The pacing is pretty solid except for a few lulls in the middle. And as the movie progresses, the line between fact and fiction also starts to overlap, creating some interesting parallels between the stories.
What didn’t work?
The only disappointing part of this movie was the ending, which unfortunately is a huge detractor. The movie slowly brings the three stories closer together but the ending tried to do something interesting but the execution was a little sloppy and confusing. As the credits started rolling, I wasn’t focusing on the past 2 hours that I really enjoyed, but I was stuck on the last 5 minutes which frustrated me. I appreciate what they tried to but it left more questions than it answered.
Should you see The Words? Yes. It’s a great movie, with nearly every actor giving a top-notch performance. It’s hard to classify with a genre, other than the generally ambiguous “drama” label. If you want some stellar performances and an interesting story, you’ll likely appreciate The Words. As a “writer,” I found the ideas here really intriguing, but the ending might have ruined most of the good work they did here. If you decide against seeing it in theaters, at least keep it in mind when it comes around as a rental.