The Words is a clever story in a story in a story that stems from an initial narrative with Dennis Quaid's character Clay Hammond starting off the film with a public reading of his best selling book, The Words. It tells the story, whether true or not of a struggling, not so good writer Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) suffering from writers block. While on his honeymoon with his devoted wife Dora (Zoë Saldana), Jansen buys an antique satchel that contains a masterpiece of a novel hidden within it's bindings. Cooper's character, desperate for success and obsessed with the words contained on the weathered parchments types them out in all night sessions and passes them off as his own. The book is a phenomena and Cooper and Saldana become the toast of the great white way till the true author appears (Jeremy Irons) demanding redemption.
The film Ruby Sparks, playing wide now across the country also deals with writers block and the consequences such blocks can bring. Paul Dano plays Calvin, a young geeky writer that at a young age wrote a "Catcher in the Rye" type classic for his generation and is also propelled to the top of his field much like Jansen is in The Words. Like Orson Wells did with Citizen Kane, Kane being his first movie and considered to be the best film ever made, Wells and young Calvin peaked with their first works and it's just downhill from there.
Calvin though is plagued by dreams of a beautiful, mysterious woman named Ruby (Zoe Kazan). Encouraged by his psychiatrist (Elliott Gould) and his brother Harry (Brilliantly played by young actor Chris Messing) to use her as his muse for his next novel, Calvin begins to write about her. Sparks though begins to take over Calvin's life, mind and soul till one day, not ever fully explained she is an actual person, materialized from written page into his reality as a real person.
The Words and Ruby Sparks take liberties with the audience, twisting our minds with a blend of fantasy and reality that works for the most part and yet both fall short of the magic Adaptation flawlessly spun into theaters years ago. The Words would have us believe that Coopers story about stealing the long lost manuscript, written out of bereavement and pain of Irons' character is an actually true account being recalled and told to us by Quaid's character Hammond, but its not ever established if that's the truth or not. The three narratives are told simultaneously and are constantly twisting back and forth on each other, leaving one never to learn the truth of The Words or if it's just a book about a book about a book. The ending is too abrupt and inconclusive leaving the audience scratching their heads in bewilderment.
Comparatively, Ruby Sparks grounds the blend of mixture of reality and fantasy very well, due largely by the fantastic performance of Chris Messina's portrayal of brother Harry but unlike The Words sudden ending, Ruby Sparks wants so badly to end on one of those, "Oh, what a clever line to end it on" moments that it just doesn't know when to end. Near the end of many endings, Calvin asks someone reading his masterpiece what they thought of it and the reply is, "My friend thought it was pretentious" and the irony of this line wasn't lost on this reviewer. All the ending lines would have been clever if only they were narrowed down to one but it seems that writer Kazan felt all of them were just too witty to go with just one, using them all and thereby making the film's would be clever ending a nonstop "clever" ending, thus making them all redundant.
If pressed though to say which of the strangely similar and yet different films I'd recommend over the other I'd have to go with The Words. This decision is made solely because abrupt as it is it, The Words has one ending and not the many would be endings that plague the home stretch of Ruby Sparks.
Two films about writer's block and what's truth and reality both hitting theaters at the same time to me is an odd coincidence, both having pros and cons on why to rush to see them or to give them both a miss. You'll have to decided on it by which ever suits your reality the most. Quirky comedy or an interesting yet confusing drama it all boils down to the written words.
Ending my reviews with a clever line seems to have become my trademark. Usually they come easily to me but with The Words and Ruby Sparks I've struggled and tried but this time I just can't seem to come up with one. Ugh, damn you writers block!
Ruby Sparks is rated R by the MPAA for sexual references and for some drug use, while The Words is rated PG-13 for brief strong language and smoking.
This review is dedicated to the memory of my best friend and beloved dog Kip who passed away this week after a long 16 years of love and friendship. I'll miss you forever my sweet little girl. Keep Mom company till I join you both one day.