One of the major themes that struck me in this movie is the posed question of whether one is living in fiction or reality. Although it left us with an ambiguous and open ending–which I thought was the whole point–it left viewers with a lot of questions to think about for the life of a writer.
Ultimately, we are given an author who is reading his book to an audience–most likely where we stand in this movie. As he reads his book, we are immersed into the world of a young, struggling writer named Rory Jansen (played by Bradley Cooper who, I might add, I was never crazy about), who has been struggling for his fighting chance to finally get one of his works published. It isn’t until he finds the missing manuscript of a young man’s–now old–heartfelt tribute to a monumental period in his life, where he finds the tables turning with his long-awaited success granted to him. Though, as the life he’s living is actually a lie, karma comes around as the original author of the work comes and tells Rory his novel’s birth–from his real life relationship with his wife and child in Paris, and everything around it. Then, we are ultimately plunged back into the author’s reality (who is telling this story) and we can’t quite make out the fate of Rory and the old man, now that the two have intertwined and drastically changed each others’ lives. (I don’t want to tell too much.) A cunning and clever graduate student named Daniella (played by Olivia Wilde who, I might say, is my favorite character in the entire film) walks into the author’s life as a well-informed, devote fan of the man, and persistently asks for follow-ups about the story, somehow finding that there’s more to the story than the man is letting by. Perhaps this man is trapped in the reality of his fiction that he no longer lives his own reality.
Although critics and fans didn’t exactly applaud for this movie, I believe the strength in this is the pure, subtle beauty of the ambiguity it left, leaving viewers with questions about the fates of all three men–the author, Rory, and the old man–as well as concerns about one’s own reality. Many left confused, but I gladly smirked and said, “Ahh hah! I know what they did there…” (They want there to be no moral, no ending, no answered fate… It plays along with the idea of living in fiction or reality.) To continue on, this film had far too many scenarios to play out as it was basically telling a story within a story that’s within a bigger story, though–as a sucker and fan for Paris and the 1940s–the retelling of the birth of a writer (struggling or not, established or not) who recounts his life story in a beautiful tale was such a treat to watch. It was beautifully filmed and played out, and the parallels between him and Rory, who is a generation later, were pretty neat. There were many moments that tended to be useless (as I suggest it hinted at something but was never answered or fully played out) and there were many open gaps where more could have been done; BUT, without being all technical and film critique-y, it leaves such a resonant message without leaving a message at all. I could have just loved it because it was about being a writer and flashbacks to Paris tossed in with some romance–everything I seem to love other than my love affair with music–but, there was this silent, utterly depressing tone playing throughout it that hints at some sort of loss one may feel in life (reality vs. fiction). That was what made the film so subtly artistic and a beautiful work of art.
Immediately after seeing this, I thought of a movie I saw two years ago called Last Nightstarring Keira Knightley, and, although both poorly reviewed, they both had this beautiful, subtle, and charming melancholic tone that makes them both ambiguous works of art. Both leave you questioning, but both play on different ideas and concepts. — Whatever the case, I really liked The Words. It was a good watch, and one of those few subtle pieces of art that leave you with something to think about–that always seems to be the game-winner for me.