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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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