Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Words

'The Words' tells of the ultimate sin: Plagiarism!   After suffering rejection for so long, can a budding writer resist a masterpiece that just lands in his lap, just because it isn't his?
The film boasts a strong cast - Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Dennis Quaid - a Glass-style score (by Marcelo Zarvos), nice production values and a convoluted story within a story framing device.  It positively reeks of artistic intent.  However, look beneath the surface, and things are a little less convincing.
For a start, the high-powered cast doesn't always deliver; there's some ham from Irons, blandness from Cooper, and a strange campness from Quaid.  Mitigating things somewhat are good performances from Saldana, Wilde and Ben Barnes.  The score is pleasant, but forgettable, trying as it does to sound like 'The Hours'.  The real test though is the script itself, the real words.
Its tricksy framed narrative, with its sly questioning of what's real and what's fiction, strives to fool the viewer into believing this is a profound piece of cinema. It handles its story within a story structure well, but its a measure of how well-worn this approach has become that there is no risk of any audience member being challenged.  And that reflects the film in its entirety.    This is not a profound film; it just thinks it is.  Ultimately it's a simple, sentimental tale told with purple prose..
Whatever its pretensions, there is a sincerity in its willingness to tackle guilt and its effects on people.  It just doesn't have too much more to add to what other better films (such as 'Crimes and Misdemeanors') have already taught us.  Its one good insight is to stress how words can complicate, confuse and ultimately spoil the good things in life.  The young soldier and his French love are never more happy than when they share only one word in common.  It's a trite and simple lesson, but one that nevertheless resonates.  However, do we really need three(?) writers, several fictional books and a title to drive the point home?
In a way, yes, we do. You see 'The Words' is pretentious, and yes, there are many flaws, but for all that I still kept watching.  The writerly aspects (rejections, doubt, exhilaration) rang true for me.  In terms of its narrative structure, it really couldn't but take the approach it does.  They are cheap tricks that it uses, but they are bookish tricks. And then I am a softie at heart (I'd just wiped up my tears after having watched 'Up' again beforehand), so sentiment is not the kiss of death it might be for others.  For all my harsh words then, I can't just dismiss this one.  Simple, sentimental, defiantly middle-brow, it is still a guilty pleasure.  If you see it in a bargain bin, pick it up.

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