THE WORDS (96 min) (M)
Directed by Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal.
Starring Bradley Cooper, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana, Dennis Quaid, Jeremy Irons.
A young wannabe author finds a long-lost manuscript in a bag from a Parisian secondhand shop.
The book, he decides, is brilliant. Keeping his discovery from his wife, he surreptitiously re-types the manuscript into his laptop, and then presents it to a publishing house as his own work.
Fame, fortune, and the respect of his loved ones ensue. And then, of course, the actual writer turns up, very much alive, and keen to discuss the morality and the consequences of what the young fraudster has done. The manuscript was based on the writer's own life, and marriage, in post-war France. The story is intensely personal, and the writer would possibly have preferred that it never be read by anyone.
That sounds like the basis of a slender but diverting drama, and so it is. But the makers of The Words had to add another layer to their narrative: what you have just read isn't the plot of the film, it is the plot of a novel being read by the author to a fawning audience at a literary event in New York. And as the reading, and the film progress, we are invited to consider whether the novel is an autobiographical confession. Which could still work, were the enterprise directed and stitched together with any enthusiasm or energy. But no.
The Words arrives promising all sorts of meta-fictional cleverness, but delivers a damp void.
Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Irons are both fine as the fraudster and the writer, but Dennis Quaid is dreadful as the author. Positively ablaze with angst, Quaid implodes like a bad theatre society ham auditioning for Glengarry Glen Ross. Miscast, and misdirected, Quaid and his storyline send The Words into a spiral of pseudo-psychological silliness which the central premise simply will not support. Pity.
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