The film begins with a scene showing author Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) giving a reading of his newly published book, entitled “The Words.” The reader is then transported into a tale within a tale as Clay’s book takes over and we learn about the life of the main character, Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), an unsuccessful author whose manuscript has been rejected by numerous publishers.
While honeymooning in Paris, Rory’s bride Dora (Zoe Saldana) finds a handsome briefcase in an antique store which she presents to Rory as a wedding gift. After they arrive home, Rory discovers a manuscript hidden in the briefcase which he recognizes as a well-written piece of work. He then types the manuscript into his computer where Dora finds it and believes it was written by Rory. Dora convinces Rory to submit it to a publisher who loves the novel which becomes a best seller. Rory fulfills his dream of financial success with the publication of the book.
The story takes a step back as Clay Hammond takes an intermission backstage where he is introduced to Daniella, a student who wants to interview him about his book. They plan to meet after Clay finishes his reading.
After the intermission, Clay resumes his reading which relates that the now famous Rory meets an old man (Jeremy Irons) in Central Park. The old man reveals to Rory that the manuscript was his own story of his long-lost love when he lived in Paris. His wife had lost the manuscript which led to the dissolution of their marriage and the beginning of the old man’s fall into oblivion.
Overcome with guilt, Rory seeks to pay the old man for his manuscript, and of course is turned down. He continues to pursue relief from his guilt by confessing his offense to his publisher as well as his wife. When the old man dies shortly thereafter, the secret dies with him, and Rory is left to deal alone with his conscience when his wife Dora leaves him.
When Clay finishes his reading, he and Daniella continue their interview with Daniella asking some probing questions. Clay does not answer her inquiry whether or not “The Words” is autobiographical. The viewer needs to stay to the end to learn the truth.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Although Jeremy Irons’ part as the old man was not more than a cameo part, it was truthfully the centerpiece of the entire story. Also, he is head and shoulders above every other member of the cast with his performance. They were fortunate to have his name linked with theirs in this intriguing story.
“The Words” brings to mind the well-known fact that Ernest Hemingway’s wife lost several of his manuscripts while traveling on a train. It may well be that the writer used that occurrence as a seed to create a story revolving around a similar mishap.
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