This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 7th October 2012
The Words has a terrific premise, a great cast, and that kernel in all good storytelling – the moral dilemma. Regrettably, this potential winner manages to trip up as it takes to the dance floor, and then throws in some pretty odd moves. But first, let’s focus on what works.
Delivering a story within a story of a story, each of the authors tells his tale in flashback. Dennis Quaid is a successful writer celebrating the launch of his latest novel. It concerns a struggling writer (Bradley Cooper) who happens upon an old manuscript, passes it off as his own, and is then showered with critical acclaim. Cooper is, as ever, dashing and sympathetic as the protagonist. He has a beautiful, supportive girlfriend (Zoe Saldana, who has much more to her than the blue skin of Avatar, and here gets to inject a real character with authentic feeling). But we all know the plagiarist can’t get away with his dirty secret, and it’s the gradual unravelling of his world which makes for an enthralling watch.
The supporting cast includes a menacing Jeremy Irons and a cameo by writer-director Brian Klugman (how many more layers do we need?). But when disturbed by the parallel thread of Quaid’s sleazy, narcissistic luminary and a mysterious acolyte (Olivia Wilde), the film is thrown off course. Quaid is seldom likeable in any film, and Wilde batting her eyes isn’t enough to convince that he’s attractive. Something is afoot, but the denouement leaves you feeling distinctly gypped.