I learned the story was loosely based on an incident with Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley. In 1922 on a trip to Paris, she lost a briefcase filled with his manuscripts. In this story, Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid), author of “The Words,” tells a similar story as he reads excerpts of his book to an standing-room-only audience.
Rory Jansen (Cooper), a struggling writer, is the focus of Clay’s book. He is newly married to Dora (Zoe Saldana). On their Paris honeymoon, she buys him a briefcase from an antique store. Once stateside, Rory discovers papers hidden inside the briefcase. A story of love and tragedy unfolds before him and onto his PC as he types, word for word, his lucky but obviously ominous find.
His original manuscripts only provide a sense of failure because of his inability to get them published. Now, everything has changed and his success drowns out his nagging conscious. That is, until the appearance of an old haggard man portrayed by Jeremy Irons. The predictability of his role is apparent early on in the movie, but his story will be played out as well.
This movie reminded me of those Russian nesting dolls. No matter how many dolls you pull off the top, so many more lie beneath. I never get to the tiniest doll because I lose interest.
The overdramatization of this story did not intrigue me. It made me yawn. This movie isn’t entertaining, and it’s hardly romantic. The pieces of all the stories eventually come together but getting there is the struggle.
If I could rewrite this script, I would remove Rory and Clay and just focus on Irons’ character. Out of the three stories, the old man’s is the most descriptive and important.
Set in Paris in the early 1900s, a young soldier (Ben Barnes) is on duty when he meets beautiful waitress (Nora Arnezeder). His knowledge of French is sparse; her English, the same. However, their connection is easy to understand. This simple encounter is the start of the true purpose of the film.
Unfortunately I had to sit through weak attempts at drama with Rory and Dora’s marriage and Clay being aggressively pursued by a student, Daniella (Olivia Wilde). Rory’s dad, portrayed by J.K. Simmons, tells his son being a man means knowing one’s limits. Unfortunately, “The Words” goes way beyond its own, resulting with cast members (with the exception of Irons) trying too hard to make a lackluster film into something worth watching.