Review: ‘The Words’ (M) ***

BRIAN Klugman’s directing debut after an acting career mostly in TV and co-writer/director Lee Sternhall’s screenwriting debut is a layered story that asks its audiences to work hard at sorting out how the layers connect.

Its fundamental theme is honesty. Its dramatic environment is the world of the novelist in Berlin in 1946, in New York from the 1980s and in Paris in between. Hammond (Dennis Quaid) reads publicly in now-time from his newly-published novel. Early this century, Rory (Bradley Cooper) and Dora (Zoe Saldanha) move into a cold-water apartment while he struggles to write his first novel. In Paris on their honeymoon, Dora buys an old leather folio case as a gift to Rory. Later, Rory finds the manuscript of a novel in one of its compartments re-keys it character for character and submits it to his publisher employer. Leaving the book’s launch he passes an old man (Jeremy Irons).

From here, working out what’s what does not require an IQ in the upper range. The issues are well-enough exposed. While their message gets delivered after a fashion, their treatment and resolution might usefully have been dealt with in greater depth.

Neither what Hammond is reading aloud nor what Rory is copying into his word processor proclaims the great American novel of its or any decade. The screenplay makes oblique references to Ernest Hemingway. Its internal references to Hammond’s tale and Rory’s plagiarism may evoke a flavour of Hemingway’s work. But those references and an encounter between Hammond and a luscious literary groupie do not convince us of great writing or great novelists. Like the film itself, they lead to a watched pot, never boiling.

At Greater Union and Dendy

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