Starring Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons. Written and directed by Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal. PG. 97 min. Opens Sept. 7.
Filmmakers have long been fascinated by the affairs of the literary world, but it’s hard to understand exactly why. Since writers are a mostly sedentary lot prone to muttering to themselves while hunched over laptops and cups of cold coffee, their lives hardly seem as dramatic as just about anyone who has to venture out of the house on a daily basis.
That’s not to say there are no dramatically compelling movies about writers—it’s just that The Words is not one of them. Using some of his post-Hangover clout to help realize a project by his longtime pals Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, Bradley Cooper stars as Rory Jansen, an aspiring novelist who has made many sacrifices in his pursuit of his ambitions, but has become keenly aware of the limits of his talent. Rory’s trajectory changes after he discovers a manuscript in an old briefcase that was bought for him by his new wife, Dora (Zoe Saldana). After passing the work off as his own, he finds the success and recognition he craves. Yet the guilt starts gnawing at his gut well before he crosses paths with the real author (Jeremy Irons).
That this narrative is presented as a fiction created by yet another writer, played by Dennis Quaid, is an additional idea that proves to be both unwieldy and uninteresting. Regardless of whether Rory’s dilemma is real or invented, it never generates much more than the usual windy clichés about the writer’s life. Even Irons fails to provide much ire as a man who claims his life was stolen, perhaps because it’s impossible to tell what was so fabulous about that manuscript in the first place. For all of the movie’s lofty references to Ernest Hemingway, the words of The Words are barely worthy of Nicholas Sparks.