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Still shot from the movie: The Words.

The Words

Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) wants to be a great writer, but doesn't seem to have the necessary talent. When he has an opportunity to publish someone else's manuscript as his own, he achieves the success he hoped for -- but his plagiarism comes with an unexpected cost.

Overall Grade: B+
Violence: B
Sexual Content: B-
Language: C+
Drugs/Alcohol: C
Release Date: 07 Sep 2012
Run Time: 96
MPAA Rating: PG-13

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In-Depth Review

Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) is determined, and it’s a good thing he is. He wants to be a novelist, even though he’s well aware it is a career choice with few job openings and far too many applicants. With his girlfriend Dora (Zoe Saldana) by his side, the would-be author submits dozens of manuscripts from their dumpy New York apartment. The rejection letters pile up and so does the resistance from his father (J.K. Simmons) who has been subsidizing his son’s dream.

Months pass and the tight knit couple decide to tie the knot and honeymoon in Paris. There, in a quaint antique shop, Rory finds a worn leather attaché case that looks like the perfect accessory for a starving writer. But after returning to NYC, he discovers a tattered typewritten manuscript inside, detailing an incredibly powerful story. Wanting to just feel what it would be like to create something so moving, he begins to copy the prose into his computer. This seemingly insignificant decision accidently leads his wife to believe her husband has finally found the creative voice he’s never had. Not wanting to disappoint her by telling her otherwise, Rory completes the plagiaristic process and hands the work into a publishing company where he is employed as a mail clerk.

What ensues after this minor indiscretion becomes the crux of the dilemma in this movie. Rory soon realizes trivializing dishonesty doesn’t keep the consequences small. Nor is making right for a wrong always as easy as offering money. Yet if cash can’t fix an offense, what can? Focusing on this gap in the justice equation, the script examines how redemption and forgiveness factor into the inequalities of life.

This film will undoubtedly be compared to Inception because of the way it is constructed. The main plot is actually a novel written by another author (Dennis Quaid). And, if that isn’t confusing enough, within his tale lies yet another story about another writer and his twist with fate.

Complexity aside, this dialog heavy drama unfolds reasonably well. Parents should expect frequent depictions of smoking during post-WWII period scenes and some brief sensual moments along with the use of infrequent mild profanities, scatological terms and a single sexual expletive. Still, The Words offers a great starting point for a discussion on ethics. The production’s greatest downfall may be its lack of teen appeal—and that’s a tad unfortunate because these words are worth hearing.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Violence: In a wartime setting, a dead body covered in a sheet (except for an injured arm) is seen on a stretcher.  

Sexual Content: An unmarried couple lives together and eventually marries. Some mild sensual scenes between couples are shown.

Language: Use of a single sexual expletives, infrequent (about ten) moderate and mild profanities, and some scatological terms.

Drugs/Alcohol: Frequent cigarette smoking is shown in period settings. In a few scenes characters drink alcohol (two to the point of drunkenness) as they attempt to fend off misery.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

When did Rory make his first mistake? What other options were available that could still have offered him personal benefit? What would you have done if put in his circumstance?

Can all hurt be fixed with money? What other things might be tried to recompense a wrong? What can be done if the other party refuses to accept attempts to reconcile?

Video alternatives

The struggles of other aspiring authors, and the impact their desires have on others, are explored in the movies Stranger than Fiction and Julie & Julia. The long-term effects of cheating are seen in The Emperor’s Club and Quiz Show.

Home Video Notes

Home Video Notes: The Words

Release Date: 24 December 2012

The Wordsreleases to home video (Blu-ray) with the following extras:

- Unabridged: A Look Behind the Scenes of The Words

- A Gentleman’s Agreement : A Look at how Bradley Cooper and the Filmmakers Found The Words

- Clay and Daniella - Featurette

- The Young Man and Celia - Featurette

Join the Conversation

About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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