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Capone has a few choice words for THE WORDS…most of them bad…

Published at: Sept. 7, 2012, 1:17 a.m. CST

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

The directing debut from sometime-actor Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal (both of whom wrote this film as well and got a story credit for TRON: LEGACY) is called THE WORDS, and it's three fairly simple stories thrown into a blender and made so much more complicated than they need to be. Somewhere in the twisted wreckage is an interesting tale of struggling writer Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) who is having trouble making ends meet and is forced to continually borrow money from his father (J.K. Simmons... I can see the resemblance) and can barely afford to support himself and his wife (Zoe Saldana).

But on a trip to Europe (their honeymoon, I believe), Rory stumbles upon a vintage leather briefcase that he buys. Once home, he discovers the manuscript for a short novel about two lovers during wartime Europe who are separated and heartbroken. The story is so moving, Rory types it into his computer and submits it to a publisher he works for (in the mailroom) who falls in love with it. Before long, the book is a massive bestseller and Jansen is famous... until the story's actual writer (an unnamed old man played by Jeremy Irons) approaches Jansen wondering aloud if there is a price to pay for stealing another man's story so boldly.

Sounds like a simple enough tale, right? The things is, the story I just told you is actually a work of fiction being read by an older writer named Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) at a public appearance. Is this his story from his younger days? Does the old man want to expose the young writer for his fraud? And what will happen when a young literature groupie (Olivia Wilde) lures Hammond to her apartment? I said that this was three stories; the third is the story of the found manuscript, which we find out is the true story of the old man as a young soldier (played by Ben Barnes) and his lady love (Nora Arnezeder). My head hurts just recapping it.

For such a mediocre film, THE WORDS certain managed to attract a stellar cast, probably because no one but Cooper had to work more than a few days on it. The faces of Ron Rifkin, Michael McKean, John Hannah and Zeljko Ivanek pop up in tiny parts somewhere in one of the three stories, but they aren't on screen long enough to improve the proceedings in any measurable way. The film has a placid, uninspired tone, especially when it comes to its visual style, which is only matched by the glassy look in many of the actors' performances, save Cooper, who absolutely thinks he's in a better movie.

Irons has a few choice hammy moments that will probably result in unintentional laughter, but there's something inherently, undeniably watchable about the man. Aside from that, THE WORDS will not move or inspire you, and good luck trying to remember what happened to whom about an hour after you're done watching it. It's not that it's difficult to follow; the problem is it's tough to care enough to remember.

-- Steve Prokopy
"Capone"
capone@aintitcool.com
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