The Words

The closest thing to a point that I can find in “The Words” is when one writer tells another, “My tragedy is that I loved the words more than I loved the woman who inspired them.” That theme is worth exploring, but “The Words” doesn’t do it. Instead, this tedious and needlessly convoluted drama (written and directed by first-timers Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal) just meanders aimlessly.

The film also suffers from a rare condition known as Superfluous Quaid Syndrome. Normally, of course, the presence of Dennis Quaid is welcome, but here he is unnecessary. He plays an author named Clay Hammond who’s appearing at some swanky gathering to read from his novel, called “The Words”; most of the movie is simply a cinematic depiction of this fictional author’s fictional novel. The book is about a would-be novelist named Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) who finds an old typewritten manuscript, author unknown, which he publishes, to great acclaim, as if it were his own work. Then the real author shows up (played by Jeremy Irons), and we see flashbacks to a half-century earlier, when his life experiences inspired the story.

To summarize: “The Words” is a movie about a writer reading his novel to an audience, and that novel is about a writer who stole another writer’s work, which we see produced in flashbacks. It’s the “Inception” of boring, pointless dramas.

Bradley Cooper gets to flex some dramatic muscles as the ethically conflicted Rory Jansen, and his scene with his supportive but dubious father (J.K. Simmons) is a small gem. But his relationship with his wife (Zoe Saldana) — who is supposedly his muse and soulmate — is reduced to generalities and cliches. When the movie finally ends, abruptly, you may wonder what it is that we and Rory are supposed to have learned.

D+ (1 hr., 36 min.; PG-13, some profanity.)