Even with a stellar cast, many independent films tend to disappear through the cracks, often only screening in major film festivals or small boutique cinemas. Though its star, Bradley Cooper, has enjoyed a steady rise in popularity, this was the fate of ‘The Words’, a small but impressive feature from writer-directors Brain Klugman and Lee Strernthal. Working with the complex structure of a story-within-a-story-within-a-story, it explores the act of writing, and its personal and artistic cost.
Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) is performing a public reading of his book, ‘The Words’, which tells the story of Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), a young writer who, even with his obvious talent, cannot break into the publishing world. On a trip to Paris with his wife Dora (Zoe Saldana), he stumbles upon an old typed manuscript in a leather case, dating back to the 1940s. To his surprise, the manuscript is incredible, the kind of writing he could never hope to achieve. In a moment of weakness, and against his better judgement, Rory decides to submit the manuscript as his own work, and the book becomes a major success, hailing him as one of the most exciting writers of his generation. All seems to be working for him, until an Old Man (Jeremy Irons) appears, claiming he is the writer of the manuscript.
It’s a complex narrative structure, and it mostly works, especially with the clear technical aptitude of Klugman and Strernthal. ‘The Words’ is a beautiful looking film, expertly shot, and complemented by an excellent score. The performances are also very good, Bradley Cooper in particular demonstrating his emerging talent, and Jeremy Irons lending his considerable weight. In the end, however, the film becomes more complex than necessary, and while the premise is intriguing and full of possibility, the film never quite lives up to it. The multi-level story is also slightly unnecessary, and might have benefited from streamlining. ‘The Words’ is a fascinating film, and clearly one created with care and passion, but the end result isn’t as fulfilling as it could have been.
PICTURE & SOUND
Paramount has given ‘The Words’ a beautiful transfer, as one would expect from such a recent film, preserving the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Presented in 1080p, the film looks a little soft and diffused at first, but as the film progresses, it becomes clear that this is an intentional choice of the filmmakers, and the transfer preserves their original intentions. Cinematographer Antonio Calvache gives each level of the narrative a distinct visual tone, such as the faded browns of the 1940’s, and while the colours aren’t vibrant and striking, they make the emotional shift between each level clear and identifiable. Thankfully, the film’s grain structure is maintained, keeping its inherent cinematic quality. The sound is also impressive, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 that, while not blasting the speakers with a dynamic soundtrack, recreates the intimacy of the film.
‘The Words’ is a beautiful looking film, expertly shot, and complemented by an excellent score.
As opposed to the U.S. edition, which offers an extended cut of the film and a number of small featurettes on the making of the film, this Australian edition only offers around 20 minutes of perfunctory cast and crew interviews. These aren’t quite the typical EPK interviews, and a few offer insight into the process and their collaborators, but in the end, they’re only a slight addition to the disc.