Out Now On-Demand
There's more than one way to take a life.
Bradley Cooper is a struggling writer about to discover the consequences of plagiarising another man’s work in this romantic thriller, also starring Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons and Olivia Wilde.
Rory Jansen (Cooper) is a talented writer with a beautiful wife (Saldana) and mounting internal and external pressure to achieve success. He does - composing what is heralded as a great American novel. Problem is, he didn't write it. As the past comes back to haunt him and his literary star continues to rise, Jansen is forced to confront the steep price paid for stealing another person's work, and for placing ambition above life's most fundamental three words.
Rating: M contains offensive language
Inspiration is placed on a spectrum, and the brutal reality is that not all of us will ever reach the peak. The Words doesn’t shy from this fact, alluding to the benefits of accepting your own limitations as opposed to plagiarising someone else’s unique creative spark. Although the film doesn’t back up its moral punch with any significant force, it has a unique story to tell that remains refreshingly adult.
The narrative is constructed like a small set of Russian dolls: one story (Dennis Quaid and Olivia Wilde) involves an author telling another story (Bradley Cooper, Zoe Salander and Jeremy Irons) which involves another author telling yet another story. This Cloud Atlas-like structure may seem gimmicky at first, but the three layers combine organically to serve its story of plagiarism and consequence. The key actors give the film leverage too. Cooper and Salander impress, Irons typically excels and Quaid gives his best performance since probably Rise of the Phoenix (or Frequency).
However, The Words undermines itself with the way it handles the mini-story that serves as the main inspiration for the plagiarised material. Awkwardly wedged halfway between Irons confronting Cooper, this flashback segment isn’t anywhere near as deep, original or impactful as the characters claim. It grows tiresome pretty quickly, and you really just want the film to hurry back to Irons calling Cooper a piss-ant.
This isn’t an Oscar-contending powerhouse drama; it’s a film dedicated to expressing its message. On that level, The Words succeeds.
Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert)
New York Times
Time Out New York