The Words

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Stories within stories within more stories: Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal’s drama nests its narratives like a Russian doll; crack each chronicle open, and there’s another one inside. At a swanky book event, a literary hotshot (Dennis Quaid) 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, improbably cast). On his Parisian honeymoon, this fictional 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 a successful career as an author. It isn’t long, of course, before we’re thrust into yet another yarn, about a WWII veteran who once wrote a tome of his own.…

At its best, 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.

Follow A.A. Dowd on Twitter: @aadowd

Release details

Rated: PG-13
Release date: Friday September 7 2012
Duration: 96 mins

Cast and crew