The Words

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It was more fun when Bradley Cooper dealt with writers block in Limitless last year.

When Bradley Cooper was starring in Limitless, I thought I’d hate it based on the premise. He was a writer suffering from writer’s block. He comes across a drug dealer that gives him a pill that makes him smart. This enables him to write a best-seller.

I thought I would love this movie based on the premise. Bradley Cooper is a writer, not suffering from writers block, but publishers block. They send generic rejection letters, until one (Ron Rifkin), brings him in to praise his work. In what’s the first of many goofy pieces of dialogue – he’s told his stuff is really good but that it’s not marketable (not sure why you call somebody in to tell them that); and  didn’t stop them from publishing T.S. Garp’s material in The World According to Garp (the best movie about writers ever made).

Cooper is being pressured by his father to get a real job and write as a hobby (a great role played by the best dad on screen – J.K. Simmons). There’s a nice exchange between them where Cooper starts to storm out and Simmons yells, “Sit down! What…are you 11?”

When wife Zoe Saldana (how many struggling writers that don’t make money would be able to snag a woman like that?) buys him an old briefcase at an antique shop in France, he discovers a manuscript inside. It contains an amazing book, which he soon passes off as his own.

It becomes a best-seller, he wins awards, and then…Jeremy Irons shows up. When he shows up on screen, bad things usually happen. He claims that’s his book. He has white in his beard, walks with a limp, and has a tweed hat –  so I assumed it was probably true. He then fills in the blanks on the story, and I was pleasantly surprised the movie didn’t become one of those crazy dramas where they are both trying to kill the other. Instead, they acted like mature adults about it.

The movie sort of tries to be an Inception for literary types. It’s not a dream, within a dream, within a dream. It’s a story, within a story, within a story. It was written by Dennis Quaid’s character, and it’s called The Words. It tells the story of Bradley Cooper’s character, and his novel about an American soldier in France who falls in love and tries dealing with a lot of tragedy. Then there is Cooper’s story – a much happier marriage. You know a couple is happy when they don’t fight over who is washing the dishes, but instead kisses and cuddles while doing them.

Quaid is being pursued by Olivia Wilde, in what is a poorly written character. She’s too much of a groupie. It would’ve been much more interesting if she was just a graduate of the university he’s speaking at who is curious about him. Instead, we have to watch Quaid play the character we’ve seen him play in a dozen movies – the charming lothario that wants to get the woman to bed no matter how many questions she pesters him with.

Often times, I thought the score was cheesy and I felt like I was watching a Lifetime movie.

The cinematographer (Antonio Calvache) did a nice job bringing us back to the France in the ‘40s; although my friend had a problem with the fact that the couple would be eating ice cream and picnicking in a park at that time in Paris. I told her I didn’t pay attention enough in school to have a problem with that.

I found Cooper worked well as the protagonist in Limitless, when time was running out on him. In this, he just doesn’t pull off the vulnerable moments he needed to. His words are telling us that he wants to make the situation right, but his face seems to tell a different story.

Michael McKean was okay in his small role, but other than Saldana and Irons, I thought the picture was miscast.

It was such a bummer to be disappointed by so much of the movie. One example is Cooper getting a job at a publishing house to work in the mail room…and listening to the other guys that do that job talk about how they’re also writers.

There were scenes that could’ve made this a nice love letter to Ernest Hemingway. We see a table he sat at in Paris, we see his books on the shelf, and at one point in the novel we hear the phrase “the sun slowly rose.”

I read somewhere recently that Hemingway rewrote the ending of A Farewell to Arms 29 times until he was happy with it. I wish the writer/director team of Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal would’ve done that with this script, because it’s a really interesting concept.

During one conversation between Irons and Cooper, we’re moved by the story being told. At one point Irons claims “I loved the words…more than the woman that inspired them.”

That’s some deep stuff. Perhaps they should’ve gone deeper, and made a more interesting film.

This gets 1 ½ stars out of 5.