Sunday, September 9, 2012

Random Thoughts on The Words

I enjoyed The Words for the intricacy of the plot. The Words is a story wrapped around a second story that flashes back to a third story which includes a fourth story.

The third storyline is set in a very picturesque post-World War II Paris. Ben Barnes plays a young American who comes back to Paris after the war, falls in love, and tries to become a writer. The idyllic street scenes set the tone for this story of a young man who would like to be the next Hemingway. The romantic setting suggests the magic inherent in the act of writing. The novel that the young man eventually writes is shown in glimpses as he writes it, and as another writer later reads it and word-processes it. This presents the novel with a sense of wonder that makes it believable that it becomes a much-loved bestseller.

Dennis Quaid is quite commanding as Clay Hammond, the author of a book called The Words, which is about an unsuccessful, aspiring writer named Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) who finds the lost manuscript of the young writer in Paris (Ben Barnes as the young man/Jeremy Irons as the old man) and calls it his own.

Once again, Bradley Cooper plays a wayward, aspiring writer, as he does in Limitless. In both films, his character is faced with a choice. In Limitless he writes a successful book by taking a drug that enhances his mental processes. In The Words, he takes a lost manuscript, calls it his own, and becomes a bestselling, award-winning writer. Cooper does quite well depicting Rory's anguish when faced with his moral dilemma.

I love movies that depict the act of writing. We see someone writing with a pen, with a typewriter, with a word-processor. A gripping, passionate scene captures the torment and hard work of writing. (It also deals realistically with rejection and the difficulties of getting published.) I remember those manual typewriter days! Love the shot of the young writer struggling with a typewriter ribbon. I remember banging away at a ribbon until I could no longer ink the paper. The film also depicts the torture of writer's block, and I like how it portrays the enigma of creativity. The same young man who can't seem to join words together effectively suddenly finds inspiration and pours out a heart-felt story. That's how it can work sometimes.

I love the film's simple paradigm: young man, old man, lost manuscript, aspiring writer, moral dilemma, choice, repercussions. But there is a lot going on in this simple pattern. The Words is about passion, the imagination, moral choices, justice, and living with an immoral choice. At the same time, the cinematography employs a minimalism that nicely frames the conflcts: writer with laptop; writer with typewriter; Rory faced with his choice; Rory and old man in Central Park; Clay Hammond with book entitled The Words.

Primarily, The Words is about words and the challenging, painful, elusive art of writing. We see words on a laptop screen. We see them scribbled on scratch paper and on a file folder. We seem them in English and French. We see them printed in a hardback book. We see the young man's clear, Hemingwayesque diction typed on age-yellowed manuscript paper, the pages placed in a folder, the folder kept in an old leather briefcase. You can feel the writing going on.

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