In The Words, Bradley Cooper is a writer who has spent years trying to find his voice. He has submitted several manuscripts to publishers and although they are encouraged by his talent, Cooper has failed to sell one book.
Then, on a trip to Paris with his wife (Zoe Saldana), she buys him a tattered leather satchel to use for his work. She hopes it will inspire him to carry his prose to awaiting publishing houses.
What’s inside the bag will set off a moral dilemma as old as time itself.
Once home, the happy couple go on with their lives with reality showing its face. Cooper needs to get a job and finds one working the mail room at a publisher. His disdain is clear, but he knows it may be possible to still make it as an author working around the people who make such dreams happen.
At nights he works on his book. Yet, success continues to elude him. Then, The Words hits its astute question: If no one knew -- or could know -- that you did something wrong… would you still do it?
Late one frustrating night, Cooper finally pulls out the satchel and inspects it. Inside he finds a manuscript. Not just any manuscript, but filmmakers would have us believe this is something as earth shattering as anything Hemingway or Fitzgerald composed. In an effort to feel what it’s like to write something so powerful, he writes it on his computer, word for word.
The film never suggests that Cooper had planned to do anything else with the story other use it as an exercise of “writing” a great book. When Saldana finds the work on his computer, he is greeted one evening by a woman filled with tears launched by the brilliance that she believes her husband has crafted. So taken with her reaction, it happens: Cooper passes it off as his own.
He shows it to an agent at work, they immediately sign him and he becomes an overnight literary sensation.
As so eloquently laid out in The Words trailer, the film raises many questions. This is a forty-plus year old manuscript. Surely no one will miss it? Or will they? Jeremy Irons shows up after Cooper accepts an esteemed literary award. The Words are in fact… his.
Director Brian Klugman has crafted a film that if it stuck to the story outlined above, it would be utterly brilliant. Unfortunately, interwoven with that story is a narrative with Dennis Quaid who we’re told early on is himself an author. He is narrating a story of his own while Cooper’s tale plays out. It is a confusing plot device and regrettably is a complete distraction.
It is truly sad because within The Words there is a fantastic film. It’s just not the one presented to audiences. Although Saldana is underused, Cooper is outstanding weaving nuances of emotional resonance throughout his performance. The Hangover star shows his acting mettle. He especially illustrates his talent in scenes where he goes head to head with Irons, who is as always astounding.
Sticking to the storyline of Cooper and Irons, our The Words review would say that the film is a winner. We adore Quaid, but his element to this morality tale is completely unnecessary. If it can be overlooked, the other aspects of the film are so strikingly strong, audiences could still enjoy the ride.