The Words
The Plagiarism Movie

Finally, it’s the plagiarism drama for which we’ve all been waiting.  Remember all those years in school when your teachers would warn you about the consequences that would come if you plagiarized another person’s work?  Well, The Words is the movie version of those consequences… and you know what?  The consequences don’t seem so severe.

The movie opens with a famous author named Clay Hammond reading an excerpt from his latest novel called, you guessed it, “The Words.”  The story is about a young aspiring writer named Rory Jansen, who has written a novel that no one wants to publish.  Forced to work in the mail room of a publishing firm in order for he and his wife to maintain their trendy apartment, Rory considers himself to be a failure and becomes increasingly despondent.  That is, until he finds an old manuscript tucked into the pocket of an antique briefcase he found while honeymooning in Paris.

Cooper and Saldanda in The WordsAfter the manuscript inspires an extreme emotional response from his wife—who thinks he wrote it—Rory decides to show it to an agent in his office and—presto!—he’s rich and famous in no time.  Life is grand… until he meets the old man who contends that the manuscript is his.  Meanwhile, in between readings, Hammond is approached by an ambitious college student who suspects that the story he is telling is more than just fiction.

The Words is relatively slow, but still manages to be entertaining throughout.  There is a layer of intrigue to the storyline that comes from not knowing for sure how much of what we are seeing is true and what is fiction.  Is Hammond telling the story of his own dishonesty?  Is the old man real? Or was he just a figment of the author’s imagination?

The movie’s framing of a story within a story within a story may seem a little too Inception for such a straight-forward drama and it causes problems in the middle.  The old man’s story of what happened in post-WWII Paris, while well told and acted, serves to stop the movie’s main storyline in its tracks.

Ultimately, the movie also fails to drive home its message that plagiarism, like our teachers told us, was wrong and comes with some tough consequences.  Those consequences are meant to be reflected in a brief final realization, but the point is not so strong.  The positives still seem to outweigh the negatives, which I’m sure was not the movie’s intended impression.

Essentially, The Words is an after-school special with a bigger budget for more recognizable stars.  That talented cast includes Dennis Quaid, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, and Olivia Wilde, all of whom are good in their respective parts, but none really stand out.  The same can be said for the movie itself.  It’s fairly entertaining while you’re watching it, but it won’t likely be one that you will remember long after leaving the theater.

The Words is rated PG-13 for “brief strong language and smoking.”  It’s mostly a family friendly drama, but there are a few things that people might object to.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of The Words