The other night, my daughter, Megan, and I saw The Words, a rather intriguing film about a writer, played by Bradley Cooper (Limitless). The fact that Cooper was in nearly every scene, that he carried the character of the writer, Rory Jansen, says a lot about his talent. This guy is good, convincing, and those baby blue eyes of his are so expressive you fall into them and forget about everything questionable thing in life. Only those eyes exist.
Okay, so maybe the shade of blue is the result of contacts. But, whatever. Cooper plays the perfect aspiring, duplicitous writer who is so desperate to be published and recognized that he plagiarizes a manuscript he finds in an old briefcase that his wife buys for him. The brief case bit is a bit over the top in this digital age – until you realize the manuscript he found was written after World War II, typed on an old Remington.
I loved the historical layers of this story, how we are led through the strange and erratic and often tragic lives of the people who are somehow involved and connected to this old manuscript. Jeremy Irons plays the old man who actually wrote the manuscript that Cooper found, a true account of his love for a French woman he met during the war, their subsequent marriage, the birth and death of their young daughter. He’s brilliant in this role. Then there’s Dennis Quaid, who plays the character of Clay Hammond who has written a bio about Cooper. Except…well, I won’t add a spoiler here.The movie is riveting – until the end. The ending is so unsatisfying that it’s hard to believe it was written by the screenwriter who conceived the film. This ending felt like a committee had the final say.
And yet, I think The Words is worth your time, if only for a retrospective. The publishing world depicted in this film is brutal, ugly. It’s the world that prompted Richard Brautigan (Trout Fishing in America) to commit suicide. It’s the world where legends were made – Hemingway, Kesey, Fitzgerald, Rawlings. It’s the publishing world before Steve Jobs came along and leveled the playing field. You get a real sense of how publishing has changed.