The Words Movie Poster Image

The Words

Teen-friendly romance is thoughtful but falls short.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 96 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

You can't run away from the past or bury it. Neither should you co-opt another person's history; you should instead embrace it and own it and try to learn from it. Every choice has a consequence.

Positive role models

Rory makes a choice that could haunt him forever. But at heart, he's a good man, a caring husband, and an impassioned writer. Most everyone in the film is sincere and decent; they may be flawed and sometimes hurtful, but it's not borne of malice.


Couples have heart-wrenching arguments; an infant dies from illness, leaving his parents devastated. A man throws his belongings around in a fit of anger.


Couples kiss and make out, but there's no nudity.


Relatively infrequent swearing includes one "f--k," plus "s--t," "goddamn," "hell," "ass," and "bulls--t."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Mostly social drinking by adults at parties and restaurants, though a few scenes show characters drinking and upset while inebriated. Lots of period-accurate smoking in the scenes set in the past.

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.

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.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about choices. What are the consequences of the decisions we make? Why do you think Rory makes the choice he does? Is it understandable? Excusable?

  • What is The Words saying about the price of success? Is this a popular theme in movies? Why?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 7, 2012
DVD/Streaming release date:December 24, 2012
Cast:Bradley Cooper, Dennis Quaid, Jeremy Irons, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana
Directors:Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal
Studio:CBS Films
Run time:96 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:brief strong language and smoking

This review of The Words was written by

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Parent Written byMusic/Movies March 5, 2013

Sex: 5/10 - Violence: 1/10 - Language: 7/10 - Drinking/Smoking: 8/10

(I am reviewing the theatrical version) Sex: A man and a woman lat down on a matress. They kiss and flirt. *A woman sits on a man's lap and kisses him a few times. *A man and a woman kiss as they walk down a street in Paris. *A man undresses a woman and kisses her with passion (in the next scene they have a new born baby). *A man pulls a woman into his arms and kisses her against a wall. *A woman and a man kiss breifly on a couch. *A woman shakes her butt at a man and it is implied that they have sex of screen. *Many couples embrace and hold hands. *Two couples are shown sleeping together. ---- Violence: *A man trashes his apartment from his anger. *There are a few loud fights with hurtful words and loud voices. *Language: F*cked, [email protected], Sh*t, Bullsh*t, screwed, h*lll. ---- Drinking: there is drinking through teh whole movie between all of the couples. *Twice in this film, men get drunk and you can see it in their faces and their eyes. *A man tells a woman he wants to drink wine with her and they do. *People smoke through the whole movie
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 17 years old Written bylooneyman September 28, 2012


this flick was awful. it maybe one of the worst films i have seen all year. there is a little bit of sex and swearing, but its pretty tame, teens and tweens should have no problem with it.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written byClaymix January 6, 2013

Better than everyone says

(I apologize for the horrid formatting of this review. Nothing seemed to work!) It's a shame that this movie is so under appreciated for what it really is: a work of art. This isn't a mindless film full of violence and sexual content that so many today crave. It isn't silly or crude. It is a thoughtful, meaningful and powerful theatrical production that touches the writer in all of us. It's a work of fiction that bends our perception of a movie and fools us - and delights in it. It artistically portrays the realistic and unavoidably consequences of life and it does it to some of the finest music composed. If you aren't willing to put some brain power and attention into the movie, you will be like all the rest of the nay-sayers. However, if you are willing to open up your mind and think a little, this movie will sweep you off your feet and take you away. Superb acting and writing round out this creative movie. A must watch for writers, readers, and those who are willing to keep up with the daring, shameless movie "The Words." CONTENT (reiterating Common Sense Media's review) Sexual content: There is plenty of kissing between couples (married or courting), but nothing more than that is shown. No nudity. Violence: Little to no violence. A wife slaps her husband out of a surge of emotion. A dead, charred man is carried out of a burnt building on a stretcher, covered in a cloth - only his arm is visible. Language: There seems to be two versions of this movie. The version I saw, which I believe was the "normal," theatrical version, contained only a single F-word. Other profanity is scattered throughout the movie, namely the S-word and BS. It is relatively infrequent and thus is not jarring. Apparently in another version (a director's cut, maybe?), there are eight F-words, though I've not been able to confirm this. Drinking and smoking: A lot of smoking, though most of it is shown back in the day when it was common to smoke. A few times, a character is drunk and/or drinking. Other content: Really, other than the language (which is deserving of a PG-13 rating), the movie is clean.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking