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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Words

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service


Zoe Saldana and Bradley Cooper star in a scene from the movie "The Words."
Right up to its ending, "The Words" (CBS) is a pleasing rumination on moral choices. Then, after a full 93 minutes of illustrating and explaining ethical ambiguity, the filmmakers let their star-laden fable lurch to close with a finish likely to please no one.

Mary McCarthy once said of her novels that she took real plums and put them into an imaginary cake. "The Words" deals with struggling novelist Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), who happens across an entire truckload of someone else's plums. He claims them as his own, publishes them to great renown, then comes face to face with the man to whom they belonged in the first place.

Since this is an artsy work, said author, played by Jeremy Irons, is known simply as the Old Man.

Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, who co-wrote and co-directed, know how to hit all the gratifying flashback notes. Jansen finds the stunning romantic novel of postwar Paris in a battered briefcase his wife Dora (Zoe Saldana) bought there on their honeymoon.

In reading the manuscript, the narration ponderously informs us, Jansen was "confronted by everything he ever appeared to be and the reality of what he would never become."

The story unfolds in a three-tiered frame, beginning with novelist Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) reading from his book about the deception, and including the Old Man's bitter recounting of his life story to the stunned Jansen.

Ernest Hemingway references abound—as a reminder that all good fiction originates with suffering. That sentiment notwithstanding, the Paris scenes are postcard perfection.

Jansen knows he has to make a choice when he encounters the Old Man. But the filmmakers, coming from an industry where the theft of ideas is more common than it is for fiction writers, muddy their resolution and cheat a bit. To elucidate whose story this really is, there's a postlude with Hammond explaining to flirtatious graduate student Daniella (Olivia Wilde) how novelists plunder their own lives.

This talky drama is just the thing for those yearning to don tweed and corduroy, sip red wine and discuss literature on rainy nights.

The film contains two premarital situations as well as occasional profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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