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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Words, some of which takes place in an earlier time period, leans heavily on the idea of consequence, a subject that can be weighty but is also of value for young teens learning to consider the impact of their decisions and behavior. Expect a bit of swearing (one "f--k," a few "s--t"s, etc.) and kissing/making out. There's also some drinking, mostly in social settings (though occasionally to excess), and smoking (accurate for the earlier era that some of the movie takes place in). An infant's death is devastating to his parents.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Rory Jensen (Bradley Cooper) has longed to be a published writer for as long as he can remember. But the going has been tough. Writing his first book has taken years, and finding a publisher to take it on has proven nearly impossible. Then, on one of many sleepless nights, he finds an old manuscript hidden in an antique portfolio that his wife, Dora (Zoe Saldana), bought for him on their honeymoon. It's a masterful piece of writing, one he's tempted to adopt as his own. Rory's story unfolds within the context of another book, called The Words, written by famous writer Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid). Is it real, or is it fiction?
Is it any good?
You have to give props to a movie that dares to be thoughtful and thought-provoking; few aim squarely at these targets, so kudos for trying. But unfortunately THE WORDS falls short of its ambitions. To start, it's much too long at two-plus hours. Its riddle-wrapped-in-a-mystery plot has lots of threads to pursue, but it's still bloated (ironically, it should have had fewer words). When audiences have to peel through so many layers, you'd better be sure each one is worth the work -- and in this case, some of them aren't. Rory's story has a good hook, and viewers will likely even be intrigued when the purposefully vague "old man" reveals the movie's twist. But then that's followed by yet another twist, one which we no longer care to puzzle over -- not because it's so daunting, but because we've had enough.
This isn't the actors' fault. (Except for maybe Quaid, who's always likable but is also a little smarmy for his role, which needs more gravitas.) Cooper tries, and it's always great to run across Jeremy Irons. The Words is in some ways reminiscent of The Notebook, but the romance at the heart of this film's sad and troubled past is as stereotypically cinematic as they come. Heart-wrenching? Sure. Unique? No. Transcendent? Definitely not. Also, a movie about a novel that's meant to be an American classic ought to have words that burrow under our skin because they're so memorable. The little we hear barely makes an impression.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: September 7, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: December 24, 2012
- Cast: Bradley Cooper, Dennis Quaid, Jeremy Irons, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana
- Directors: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
- Studio: CBS Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: brief strong language and smoking
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.