Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
The Words

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Title: The Words

Don't You Know About The Word? Everybody knows that the bird is the word.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One copy of A Million Little Pieces out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Struggling writer copies old manuscript and passes it off as his own, absorbs critical adulation before arrival of original author causes him to belatedly feel remorse.

Tagline: "There's more than one way to take a life."

Better Tagline: "If you must write prose and poems, the words you use should be your own/Don't plagiarize or take 'on loan.'"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Like so many struggling writers, Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) is desperate for that big break that will launch him into airport bookstores across the world. The problem is, his work is deemed too "interior" by agents, and he ends up working in the mailroom at a publishing house to support himself and his wife Dora (Zoe Saldana). One day, he discovers an old manuscript tucked away in a messenger bag Dora bought for him on a trip to Paris. The stories within are better than anything he'd ever written, so of course he pretends it's his work. Big surprise, the book is a smash, leading to a big publishing deal and literary awards. Too bad the guy who actually wrote it (Jeremy Irons) is still kicking around. Oh, and did I mention that story is actually the product of another book, written by Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid), who narrates the whole shebang? We're through the exceedingly dull looking glass here, people.

"Critical" Analysis: The Words is Brian Klugman's directorial debut, and -- not that I want to pile on the new guy -- it shows. It has all the emotional weight of a Lifetime Network movie though it desperately wants to deliver a Big Message about loss and roads not taken and other hoary literary themes.

This is also Klugman's first screenwriting effort, if we don't count his "story" credit for TRON: Legacy (and considering that movie was almost identical to the original, plot-wise, I don't see why we would). It's funny how every article I've seen the guy feels the need to mention he's the nephew of Jack "Quincy" Klugman, as if to suggest nepotism had a hand in getting him a role in House. Maybe. But however he made it to this point, Klugman isn't doing a lot with the opportunity.

If Klugman wasn't so young, I'd have guessed he was an old man out of touch with reality, a la Tom Hanks in Larry Crowne. Did you know aspiring writers spend weeks brooding about their rejection letters? Sure, maybe after first one or five, but by the time you have a stack you tend to take them in stride. Not Rory. And anyway, he's not a *bad* writer, his work's just toI inward facing. So when this magnificent manuscript falls into his lap, he can't help claiming credit, typing it out word for word (so he can feel what it was like to write it himself) and submitting it to his boss at the publishing house.

That's not how it works, and it makes me question a writer's experience if he thinks one can somehow channel the spirit of the original author merely by copying their work verbatim. It's no more effective than copying another person's test and expecting it ri confer that knowledge upon the cheater. Worse, this supposed "instant classic" is itself terribly derivative, like the guy set out to write something "Hemingway-esque" (The Sun Also Rises figures prominently in the original author's early life), only they left out all the stuff that made Hemingway interesting in the first place.

His choice of leading man doesn't help. Let's be honest, Cooper's at his best when playing a jagoff. He's like Bradley Whitford in that respect (maybe it's just the name "Bradley"). Here, he appears fundamentally unable to convey anything but quiet embarrassment for his actions.

And that's enough, as it turns out. His editor tells him to keep his mouth shut, and the Old Man (as Irons' character is called) doesn't want money or public recognition, he's just content to tell Rory what led him to write it in the first place. And that's it; there's no public vilification on Oprah and no awkward return of his awards. I honestly can't remember if his marriage survives, but as grad student Daniella (Olivia Wilde) tells Hammond in their creepy May-December flirtation, "it's bullshit" that nothing bad happens to the guy. A poor lesson for anybody else who happens upon an unpublished novel in an old suitcase.

The Words is in theaters today. Go read a good book instead.



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3 comments
DavidCarl
DavidCarl

I actually liked the movie and thought that the actors did a great job. I'm not an expert on exactly how authors usually react or whether just copying the mere text is enough to get through. But there were some good scenes in the movie that do curl up questions and thoughts. The drama that certain events in life have, based on an individual decision but prone to dictate your life. Good that tastes are different. I wouldn't have seen it had I read your analysis but I'm sure glad that I did!

cinephile17
cinephile17

Plus, when a writer receives a large number of rejection letters, they DO brood. Geez, I know tons of them in that category. And I don't think there was anything said about "channeling" the author - where'd you get that? He simply wanted to "try on" the words.

cinephile17
cinephile17

Cooper received stellar reviews across the board for a stage performance in The Elephant Man with Patricia Clarkson this summer, so whatever the flaws of The Words, you shouldn't assume that he's incapable of anything more than The Hangover. In fact, if you look at his body of work, you'll find that he's already shown more range in smaller films.

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