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Three-tier plot rushes 'The Words' (VIDEO)

Writing a film is, in my opinion, a trickier beast than writing a novel. A novelist has as many pages as they please to tell their story. A screenwriter, on the other hand, usually has a little less than two hours to tell their story, maybe two-and-a-half if they’re lucky. As such, some stories cannot fit comfortably within the confines of a film.

Such is the case with The Words, which opens Sept. 7, a sloppily paced film about books, that would have made a pretty good novel.

The film opens with best-selling author Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid), doing a public reading of the first few chapters of his latest hit, The Words.

The novel is about Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper). Rory is a writer who just put three years into his first novel. He contacts a variety of literary agents, who all give him the same response. It’s good enough to publish, but not good enough to make money.

Rory is now devastated. Three years of his life have just turned into a bunch of rejection letters. It’s at this moment that he and his girlfriend get married and honeymoon in Paris (Because unpublished writers living off their parent’s paychecks can afford to honeymoon in Paris). When he gets back, he discovers an old manuscript in his luggage. Upon reading the text, he instantly falls in love with it.

Then, on a complete whim, he decides to copy the novel onto a word document to, and I quote, “Feel the words run through his fingers.”

The next day, his wife discovers the novel on his computer and, thinking that he wrote it, begs him to try to get it published. Of course, he can’t just tell his wife that he didn’t write it. If he did that, it wouldn’t make for a good story now would it?

Rory submits the book to an agent, who agrees to try to represent the novel. Sometime later, the story is a huge success, and Rory becomes a millionaire without doing a single thing.

Then, he meets an old man (Played by a clearly not sober Jeremy Irons), who reveals that he is the one who wrote the book, and tells him the story of the novel’s conception.

This is where the film gets a little tricky. Having a triple-tiered story structure can certainly work well in a novel, because you have as much time as you can to develop the three stories. However, in a 96 minute film, you only have 32 minutes to spend on each story. This leads to the entire thing feeling a little rushed.

Actually, not just rushed, but a little incomplete. The characters don’t feel entirely there. They feel more like formulas than people.

Now from a filmmaking standpoint, the movie is rather competent. The cinematography is pleasing to the eye, the acting is solid almost across the board, and the use of lighting is right for the tone of the piece. The one problem with the film from a technical standpoint is the music, which feels a little too loud for such a quiet film.

Another aspect of the film that I have to criticize is the ending. With a film like this, you’d expect there to be some sort of earth-shattering revelation at the end, but instead it just tells the audience what they already know.

All in all, I walked out of The Words feeling a little empty. It’s a pleasant film to look at, but not a very pleasant one to watch.

The Words runs at 96 minutes and is rated PG-13 for brief strong language and smoking. The film is playing at most local theaters.

For more reviews, read the Aug. 23 article ‘Paranorman’ brings unique detail to animation (VIDEO).

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