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September 8, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CST
The Words, Bradley Cooper’s new movie, will make viewers crave success, force them to question their morals and tempt them to write a novel. The movie details the story of Rory Jansen, a struggling New York writer whose first novel becomes an instant best-seller. Jansen, played by Cooper, is on his way to become the next great American author. Though his novel is published and printed, his story is far from being simply black and white. In fact, the story isn’t Jansen’s at all. He committed the cardinal sin of publishing: he put his name on another man’s work.
The central plot of The Words is Jansen, his stolen novel and the literary hot water he tries to escape. But Jansen’s dilemma is actually the plot of a book written by another author, Clay Hammond, played by Dennis Quaid. The movie even delves into a third writer’s work: the author who wrote Jansen’s manuscript, played by Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons. So, the movie is actually a story-within-a-story-within-a-story. Confused? It’s not hard to be with three subplots that intertwine and blur the boundaries between fiction and reality.
Cinematography alleviates some of the timeline confusion. When Cooper’s character thinks about the stolen story, directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal use a series of quick frames to allude to a flashback.
If the viewer can keep the timeline straight and remember which characters are real and which are fictional, the film is intriguing. The dramatic highpoint is when the original author of the plagiarized book confronts Jansen. The tension between the two writers illustrates one of the movie’s themes: one must live with the consequences of his or her actions.
A movie about a novel could have easily fallen flat onscreen. But, Cooper, Quaid, Irons and their supporting actors and actresses create suspense and depth that keep the audience craving the next bookish twist. The movie also features several romantic liaisons without being cheesy: a rare find at box offices today. Despite its plagiaristic storyline, the content of The Words is refreshingly original and all-around unique.