The Words is ‘beautiful mess’of a film
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 00:09
When asked to condense my review of The Words to one sentence, I came up with three words: A beautiful mess. Sadly, nearly all of the organs in Brian Klugman’s film work except the vital one: the narrative. The Words aspires to be as complex and grand as Inception, but has plot holes as big as the ones in The Lost World: Jurassic Park .
Quite simply, The Words, released last Friday, is a beautiful film. The first aspect of it that rewards the viewer is the cinematography. Klugman and Antonio Calvache favor long takes, like Lars Von Trier, instead of rapid cuts prevalent in most films. In inexperienced hands, the film would easily fall into the trap of boring the viewer, as the takes have to be punctuated in some form. However, Klugman and Calvache use clean motions with the camera to follow a conversation. In addition, the angles for the shots are carefully selected, to satisfying effect: one of my favorite shots is when Dennis Quaid’s character Clay is selecting a bottle of wine from the bottom floor/cellar of his apartment, while his female guest, Olivia Wilde (Daniella), is standing upstairs, waiting. The shot is framed so that the apartment – whose architecture is derived from Mies Van Der Rohe’s catalogue – is opened, revealing both layers, like those in a rock. And, the beautifully composed and lit shots highlight the wisely selected locations in France and New York, in addition to the designs applied to them: World War II era France looks as authentic and beautiful as it did in Inglorious Basterds.
The world captured and created by the cinematographer, director and art department would be nothing without those who inhabit it. Established actors such as Zoe Saldana (Star Trek) Jeremy Irons (The Lion King) and J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man 1-3) offer the expected satisfying performances. However, the real treat of the film lies within the wild cards of the film’s deck: Bradley Cooper and Nora Arnezeder. I was blown away by Cooper’s performance. The problem with raunchy comedies such as The Hangover is that they do not adequately tap into the talent of those involved with them Cooper is that they are both actors who have the skills for A-list productions. And in The Words, Cooper shows he can act in the same productions as Sean Penn and Kate Winslet. His performance as an author who committed plagiarism to realize his dream of success is flawless. There is a gut-wrenching moment when his character confesses his crime to his wife (Zoe Saldana) and he waits for her response. The careful manipulation of his face, particularly his eyes, shows a want of forgiveness and damnation at the same time. And, the lovely Nora Arnezeder plays a near-silent role of a woman whose life is like that of Lucie in The Joke: a series of interconnecting tragedies. Arnezeder has a background in mostly independent cinema, but, like Cooper, has the talent and blockbuster potential to become the next Diane Kruger.
Now, with all of these carefully assembled components, why does The Words not function like a German clock? The story, as I said, intends to have the intricate architecture of films such as Inception and Identity. But the problem with architecture such as this is that it requires not only a disciplined construction, but also self-honesty. The Words cannot decide what it is, as it switches from story model to model, making a frustrating viewing. Since the narrative problems are driven through dialogue and voice over narration, I think I will select the isolated score option on the DVD and watch it as it should be viewed. As a “talkie” it is unsatisfying, but, as a silent film, it will be create an enjoyable viewing, without its words.