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Words, The (2012)
Friday, September 7, 2012
Brief strong language and smoking
Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Ben Barnes, John Hannah, Michael McKean, Ron Rifkin, Liz Stauber, Zaljko Ivanek, Nora Arnezeder
Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
The layered romantic drama The Words follows young writer Rory Jansen who finally achieves long sought after literary success after publishing the next great American novel. There's only one catch - he didn't write it. As the past comes back to haunt him and his literary star continues to rise, Jansen is forced to confront the steep price that must be paid for stealing another man's work, and for placing ambition and success above life's most fundamental three words.
Words, The (2012) | Review
Life and Fiction
The Words walks that line between life and fiction in some very interesting ways. The film is set up as a story within a story (which in turn also has a story within it). Novelist Clay Hammond is holding a public reading of his newest novel. That novel (as it is being told) makes up the bulk of the film. We are taken into the world of the novel, only briefly returning at times to the world where it is being read.
The novel (and most of the film) is about Rory Jansen, a young writer who has not been able to find success. Perhaps it is time to give up on his dream and move on with life. As he is described in the novel, he is "confronted by the reality of everything he aspired to be and everything he would never be." His depression is based in his failure to live his dream. He says, "I'm not who I thought I was." Then he finds, in an old beat up briefcase his wife bought him in Paris, a manuscript—not any manuscript, but a story that might be the best thing he has ever read. Eventually, he submits it as his own and he becomes the new wunderkind of the literary world. Finally he receives the attention he has craved—but does he deserve it? What happens when an Old Man shows up with a story of someone who stole another's story as his own? And what about Hammond as he enjoys the acclaim that accompanies having a successful novel?
So we have three writers telling us stories: Hammond, Jansen, and the Old Man. What is interesting is that with each step deeper into fiction, the closer to reality it seems. The color scheme of the film helps us along the way; Hammond's world is very white and bright, Jansen's filled with blues and greens, and the Old Man's made up of dark earth tones. It is in the earthy stories that we feel we are closest to the truth.
But it is the middle story (the story of Rory Jansen) that is most compelling because it creates a moral dilemma. Jansen doesn't set out to steal the work of another, but step by step along the way it not only seems easier to do, but more appropriate. In the aftermath of the book's success, it seems like Jansen not only enjoys the attention, but actually seems to think he's earned it.
When he is found out, he again realizes he is not who he thought he was—only now it is much more a question of goodness rather than of ability. His concerns now are not just if he can find happiness and success, but if he is even worthy—whether as a writer, a husband, or a moral being.
Then we move back to Hammond, who also seems to be enjoying the life of success, exemplified in the person of a seductive grad student who he takes back to his apartment. But she seems to see behind his artifice as well. Is he closer to Jansen, a hack writer who stumbles on success, or the Old Man who bared his soul to produce the story that brought Jansen (and Hammond, for that matter) success?
The stories: are they life or fiction? Each writer/character has had to make choices. Those choices carry consequences, not just in the stories they write, but in their own lives as well. Eventually each must choose the life they will live—the fiction they have written for themselves or the reality of everything they will never be.
Copyright © 2012 Hollywood Jesus. All rights reserved.
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