The Words: A Movie About a Book, About a Book
September 10, 2012
Starring one of my favorite actresses, Zoe Saldana, and The Hangover’s Bradley Cooper, The Words has to be one of the most thought-provoking movies I’ve seen in quite some time. Rory Johnson, a struggling writer, is about to give up his dream of getting published after his novel gets rejected time and time again. Despite his dashed hopes, he and his wife Dora go on a Parisian honeymoon, and on a whim, purchase an antique briefcase. When Rory gets home, he discovers an intriguing manuscript inside, which after reading word for word, decides that his path to literary stardom will come through this book. He publishes it as his own…it’s so old, no one will ever find out, right? Wrong.
Several months after “his” new book is a literary success, Rory gets entangled in a peculiar conversation about this story with an old man (Jeremy Irons) on a park bench. As it turns out, this man wrote that story, but lost the manuscript. While the old man tells the history behind the book and about his life after losing it, Rory is in awe of this man’s adventurous and difficult life. But his interest does not erase the man’s resentful feelings toward the one person who stole his life story. As he deals with the consequences of his actions, we are reminded that Clay Hammond, played by Dennis Quaid, is reading his book The Words, Rory’s story. Viewers are left to wonder: What is real and what is fiction? Who is telling the truth? Who is a real person and who is a character? As Quaid’s character says, “You have to choose between life and fiction. The two are very close, but never actually touch.”
The primary filming locations for this dramatic and multi-layered drama were in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. This location was chosen by location finders because of the city’s versatility: parts of the city, such as those featured in the park scenes and in and around the couple’s apartment, look like New York City. On the other hand, older, more historic Montreal buildings were used for filming the Paris scenes. The ability to interlace today and 1940s’ time frames, using filming locations in close proximity to one another, takes true filming genius. While several key scenes took place indoors—the book reading in a Montreal theater, Rory and Dora’s apartment, and Clay’s spacious penthouse-- the movie also had filming locations for important scenes outdoors. Lush green grasses, trees, and wildflowers were used a backdrop to tell both the old man and Rory’s story. Near the end of the movie, Rory seeks redemption and the old man’s forgiveness one more time on “the old man’s” rooftop greenhouse. If city skylines are more your idea of a great view, you get a little of that, too, as Clay and Daniella, a fan of Clay’s book, (Olivia Wilde) discuss the book-about-a-book late night on his balcony over wine.
If a movie with interconnected characters, complex romantic relationships, and enough unanswered questions to let you draw your own conclusions is your kind of movie, go see The Words—you won’t be disappointed.
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