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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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Augustine of Canterbury: In the year 596, some 40 monks set out from Rome to evangelize the Anglo-Saxons in England. Leading the group was Augustine, the prior of their monastery in Rome. Hardly had he and his men reached Gaul (France) when they heard stories of the ferocity of the Anglo-Saxons and of the treacherous waters of the English Channel. Augustine returned to Rome and to the pope who had sent them—St. Gregory the Great (September 3 )—only to be assured by him that their fears were groundless. 
<p>Augustine again set out. This time the group crossed the English Channel and landed in the territory of Kent, ruled by King Ethelbert, a pagan married to a Christian, Bertha. Ethelbert received them kindly, set up a residence for them in Canterbury and within the year, on Pentecost Sunday, 597, was himself baptized. After being consecrated a bishop in France, Augustine returned to Canterbury, where he founded his see. He constructed a church and monastery near where the present cathedral, begun in 1070, now stands. As the faith spread, additional sees were established at London and Rochester. </p><p>Work was sometimes slow and Augustine did not always meet with success. Attempts to reconcile the Anglo-Saxon Christians with the original Briton Christians (who had been driven into western England by Anglo-Saxon invaders) ended in dismal failure. Augustine failed to convince the Britons to give up certain Celtic customs at variance with Rome and to forget their bitterness, helping him evangelize their Anglo-Saxon conquerors </p><p>Laboring patiently, Augustine wisely heeded the missionary principles—quite enlightened for the times—suggested by Pope Gregory the Great: purify rather than destroy pagan temples and customs; let pagan rites and festivals be transformed into Christian feasts; retain local customs as far as possible. The limited success Augustine achieved in England before his death in 605, a short eight years after he arrived in England, would eventually bear fruit long after in the conversion of England. Augustine of Canterbury can truly be called the “Apostle of England.”</p> American Catholic Blog A hero isn’t someone born with unconquerable strength and selflessness. Heroes are not formed in a cataclysmic instant. Heroism is developed over time, one decision after another, moment by moment, formed by a deliberate, chosen, and habitual response to life.

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