Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mirrored at the Movies

A few days ago I saw THE WORDS, the new movie that is the writing and directorial debut of Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal.  I really enjoyed it -- but possibly for the wrong reasons.  For authors, THE WORDS is part memory, part wish-fulfillment, part nightmare, all of which overwhelmed any sense of  objective artistic judgment that I might have brought to it.
The film is about a struggling fiction writer (played by Bradley Cooper).  For the first third of the script, Rory Jansen wrestles with blank pages, blank computer screens, blank results.  He cannot get the words to flow as he wishes, and this part of the movie feels so true that I was wincing in memory.  Especially since "memory" included writing sessions as recent as, oh, yesterday.

As the internal and external pressures mount (Rory is running out of money, and his family out of patience), he finds a manuscript: old, yellowed, anonymous, and brilliant.  This may not be enormously plausible, but then again, Hadley Hemingway lost a satchel of her husband's manuscripts on a train.  Rory first reads the novel and then retypes it just to get the feel of successful prose.  This is not far-fetched; I know many writers who have done this with famous stories as they teach themselves to compose.  But then, under still more pressure, Rory claims the novel is his own.

The movie is actually more complicated than that, since it is three stories set inside each other, all connected to this particular set of words.  THE WORDS is about the desire to write, the perks and costs of fame, and the choices we all make.  Unfortunately, the last part of the film turns both preachy and muddy (I thought the last line really confused things), but overall I enjoyed this movie.

I'm just not sure why.

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