“The Words” — an annoying movie about how cheaters don’t win

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

The word for the movie — “The Words” — is…disappointment.

No, it’s more like, pretentious.

Or maybe, annoying.

Okay, let’s go with…drivel.

Sputtering along like Nicolas Sparks Lite (Liter than Lite?), the movie is a movie within a movie within a movie, give or take a movie. Like “Inception” without Christopher Nolan or Leo or Marion Cotillard or tumbling buildings or a spinning top — that’s right; minus any of the parts with the slightest bit of interest. And even then, I’m giving the spinning top the benefit of the doubt.

“The Words” begins with A Celebrated Writer (Dennis Quaid) reading from his new book, “The Words,” at some prestigious-looking Literary Event.

Quaid’s book, called “The Burning Tree” (yes, they pretty much lost me right there), is the tale of a Struggling Young Author (Bradley Cooper) who lives in one of those ubiquitous romantic garrets (or basements) in post-World War II Paris where he hopes to become the next Hemingway.

By any means necessary, as it turns out

Lucky Cooper has a gorgeous wife (Zoe Saldana, wasted) who provides precisely what gorgeous women do in stories like this: food, sex and support

Soooo, while Cooper nearly breaks his neck stumbling over an insurmountable writer’s block, she remains a True Believer. Which is why she buys him a battered old briefcase in an antique store. He’s touched of course, but what really lights his fire is a yellowed manuscript hidden inside the briefcase.

And he can’t help himself. As screenwriters/co-directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, who gave us the deathless words for “Tron: Legacy,” put it, “He just wanted to feel the words pass through his fingers.”

Sort of like A-List plagiarists Jonah Lehrer and Jayson Blair, I imagine.

And is it really his fault that gorgeous cooks-as-good-as-she-looks Mrs. Struggling Young Author thinks those words are his?

Remember, he “just wanted to feel the words …”

Before Cooper can say, “But what I really want to do is direct,” fame has him in its glittering clutches. All would be well — after all, he’s got years to write something himself — if only a scraggly old man with mournful Jeremy Irons Eyes didn’t turn up (played by a scraggly Jeremy Irons with those you-know-what eyes). Apparently, he knows a few things about that battered old briefcase and its yellowing manuscript.

I may have dozed off at that point or gone to get those Raisinets I’d been thinking about, but when I re-focused, I figured that what “The Words” is trying to get at is something like this: cheaters don’t win and winners don’t cheat.

Or maybe something as simple as: when words pour out of you, it’s easier when they are somebody else’s words. But in the end, you’ll…?

So here’s our moral fulcrum: The Truth may or may not out. And it may be up to you, the writer (or the plagiarist) to make that decision.

My theory — being, I’ll bet, the only one among us to have seen both “Tron” and “Tron: Legacy,” is that “The Words” may be some sort of convoluted confession by Klugman and Sternthal.

They are pleading with us to believe they found the script for “Tron: Legacy” behind a battered old “Pirates of the Caribbean” call sheet. And their wives liked it so much that….

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

There are 3 comments

What are your thoughts?