DVD Release Date: December 24, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: September 7, 2012
Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and smoking
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 96 min.
Director: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Ben Barnes, Nora Arnezeder, J.K. Simmons

“Sit down. Let me tell you a story,” says the Old Man (Jeremy Irons, Kingdom of Heaven) to no-longer-struggling writer Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper, Hit and Run). Rory has a best-seller to his credit. The only problem is he didn’t write it. The true author is the Old Man.

The Old Man’s story to Rory is the second, not the first, of the stories weaved by The Words, directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, who collaborated on the screenplay. Their previous credit, Tron: Legacy, was a cold, mechanical film about an alternate world. Its most memorable element was its soundtrack.

The Words is a more human story about love, professional success, and the line between truth and fiction—themes that have universal appeal. But even with a likable cast, The Words feels like a long discussion without much takeaway value. It tries to deliver a moral about choosing real life over living a lie, but the point comes across as tepid rather than deeply resonant.

Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid, revisiting familiar territory for those old enough to remember 1988's D.O.A., in which plagiarism likewise drove the plot) is an author with a devoted following. The Words opens with him reading from his new book, which tells the story of Rory and the Old Man. In this tale, which incessantly returns to Hammond’s voiceover narration in case we’ve forgotten that he’s telling the story, Rory is a writer who finally drums up interest in one of his books, only to be told that his work, while promising, is unpublishable. His father (J.K. Simmons, Juno) underwrites Rory’s lifestyle, but tells his son it’s time to give up writing as a full-time occupation.

“Get a job. Support yourself,” he tells Rory. “That’s just part of being a man. Another part of being a man is accepting your own limitations.”

Rory is slow to accept that reality. On a trip to Paris, his girlfriend, Dora (Zoe Saldana, Avatar), buys him an old satchel in which Rory will discover a stashed manuscript. Smitten with the prose, Rory types the words into his computer, where they’re promptly seen by Dora. Her intense, emotional reaction to the words, which she believes to be Rory’s, encourages him to show the manuscript to an agent. Soon the book is published under Rory’s name and titled The Window Tears. Interest in his earlier, unpublished works now skyrockets.

Rory thinks he’s in the clear until the Old Man finds him, follows him and tells him the story behind the manuscript, at which point The Words launches yet another story. This one is the tale of the Old Man’s time in Europe, where he fell in love, got married and had a child. When tragedy struck, he sat at a typewriter and wrote The Window Tears over several sorrow-fueled days, only to have his wife leave the manuscript on a train. Decades later, the Old Man discovers that the story has been published... under Rory’s name.