The first few weeks after the big-budgeted and action-packed summer blockbuster season can be a bit underwhelming in terms of content, and no film illustrates this fact better than The Words, released on Sept. 7. This drama, focusing on the consequences of a single lie and the lives that are changed as a result, promises to weave a tale of deception and heartache. It ultimately fails to leave much of an impression despite its experienced cast and intriguing premise.
The plot shifts among three different timelines, each with its own characters and story. The first involves a writer (Dennis Quaid, The Day After Tomorrow) giving an oration of his latest book to a group of audience members, one of which (Olivia Wilde, House M.D.) takes an interest in him and particularly in the story he tells. The story, which may or may not be based on true events, revolves around Rory (Bradley Cooper, The Hangover), a struggling writer who cannot reach success until he comes across a mysterious, authorless manuscript that he decides to publish as his own. The book becomes a major hit, rocketing Rory to fame and fortune; and with every passing day, Rory finds that keeping his secret becomes easier and easier, even from his supportive wife (Zoe Saldana, Star Trek). However, reality comes crashing down around him when a nameless old man (Jeremy Irons, Die Hard with a Vengeance) reveals himself to Rory as the true author of the book that has granted Rory so much fortune and success. In flashbacks, the tragic story of the old man is shown, revealing how his younger self (Ben Barnes, Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) wrote and subsequently lost the novel during the years following World War II.
The thematic elements found in The Words appear to have the makings of a good drama due to multiple stories that are connected by a single act of fate. The lengths people will go to see their dreams realized are subsequently explored. It seems practically Oscar-worthy at first glance.
Sadly, the film fails to move forward within its own plot. Rather, it presents all of the information that has already been seen in the trailer and then moves sideways, drifting back and forth between characters and their interactions with little or no rising action to pique the viewers’ interest.
Even though the film lacks momentum, the cast of The Words is not to blame. The acting is steady and reliable, and each actor does a commendable job of engrossing themselves in their characters.
In the wake of the second installment in the Hangover series, Cooper proves that he is capable of sustaining a more serious lead role, and opposite him, Saldana is consistently convincing with the material given to her. Irons’ performance of the rugged and world-weary old man comes across as nothing less than what is expected of a veteran actor such as himself, providing the audience with much needed substance to fill the void caused by the film’s weak storyline. Overall, the cast is colorful and engrossing, and as such is one of the major redeeming qualities of the film.
Maybe The Words will not turn heads with its revolutionary plot or mind-bending special effects, but the film does paint a semi-accurate picture of the struggles of life and the lengths people will go to overcome them. A deeper sense of intrigue or perhaps a more thrilling taste of deception would have done this film some good. As it stands, The Words showcases the talent of its performers, yet it ultimately lacks much memorability or potential of that in the long run.