Rated PG-13 for smoking, sensuality and brief profanity.
Plagiarism Exacts Emotional Toll In Tale Of Overwhelming Regret
The latest stop on Clayton Hammond’s (Dennis Quaid) whirlwind book tour has the renowned author in New York City to promote his latest opus. It’s a cautionary tale of overwhelming regret recounting the rise and fall of a presumably fictional character called Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper).
At the story’s point of departure, he’s an aspiring novelist under pressure to find a day job after years of relying on handouts from his father (J.K. Simmons). The young man grudgingly capitulates by taking a lowly nine-to-five gig in the mailroom of a leading literary agency.
The steady pay does enable Rory to save enough money to propose to his longtime girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) who has been patiently waiting to start a family. Soon enough, they’re newlyweds and honeymooning in Paris, where the grateful bride impulsively buys her hubby a weather-beaten briefcase lying around a dusty antique shop.
Upon returning to the States, Rory opens the valise and discovers that it isn’t empty but contains a yellowed, handwritten manuscript by someone far more talented than he. However, instead of trying to locate the owner, he succumbs to the temptation to submit the novel to publishers under his own name.
And lo and behold, the book, The Window Tears, becomes a runaway best-seller, thereby belatedly launching the literary career he’d always dreamed of. But because of the possibility of the real author’s (Jeremy Irons) stepping forward to expose the fraud, Rory faces the prospect of having to spend his life looking over his shoulder.
Co-written and co-directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, The Words is constructed as a series of flashbacks narrated by a visibly-haunted Hammond as he reads excerpts from his new book. It gradually becomes obvious that he is emotionally agonizing over the material on the pages as the tension mounts around whether what his audience is hearing might be autobiographical rather than fictional.
Unfortunately, the problems with this glacial-paced production are plentiful. First, it’s hard to swallow the film’s farfetched premise, and harder still to fathom how its protagonist has managed to maintain the charade for so long, especially given his guilty conscience and being confronted by the aggrieved party he’s impersonated.
Secondly, neither of the parallel plotlines is particularly engaging, the only issue of interest being whether Hammond’s new book constitutes a confession that his debut novel had been purloined. For this reason, the film’s biggest flaw rests in its ultimately ending on a cliffhanger, and thereby failing to resolve if Rory Jansen is indeed a thinly-veiled version of the author.
That anticlimactic conclusion proves to be quite unsatisfying after an investment of what feels like an eternity awaiting the resolution of the specific question “Did he or didn’t he?” The only thing worse than a movie without an ending, is a 99-minute endurance test without an ending.
Fair (1 star)
Running time: 96 minutes
The Weinstein Company
Rated R for profanity, sexuality, nudity and graphic violence.
Prohibition Era Crime Saga Revisits Real-Life Exploits Of The Bootlegging Bondurant Brothers
It is Franklin County, Virginia during Prohibition, which is where we find the bootlegging Bondurant brothers, Jack (Shia LaBeouf), Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke), running a thriving moonshining business with the help of a pal named Cricket (Dane DeHaan). But the siblings’ blissful existence starts to crumble the day Jack sees Floyd Banner (Gary Oldman), a coldblooded gangster from Chicago, shoot one of their competitors dead with a Tommy gun.
Not long thereafter, a crooked Federal Agent, Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce), pays a little visit to the Bondurants’ bar to demand a cut of their ill-gotten gains. But hot-headed Howard isn’t intimidated by the attempted shakedown. In fact, he threatens to kill the corrupt cop with a meat cleaver should the greedy creep ever set foot on the premises again.
Of course, that’s not the last the lads see of either Rakes or Banner, which soon proves problematical given that the ruthless newcomers are armed to the teeth and will stop at nothing to get their way. That is the ominous premise which sets in motion the grisly goings-on which ensue in Lawless, a picture dedicated to an almost senseless celebration of gratuitous violence.
Directed by John Hillcoat (The Road), the movie was adapted from The Wettest County In The World, a supposedly-factual, historical novel by Matt Bondurant (grandson of Jack). The picture opens with a warning that what you’re about to witness is “based on a true story,” a claim presumably intended to discourage the viewer from questioning the veracity of the screen version, too.
However, what’s served up is basically a comical cross of Sam Peckinpah and Looney Tunes so farcical that the audience at the screening this critic attended shared a few hearty laughs at moments when none was intended. An over-the-top indulgence in sadism strictly recommended for folks with a stomach for gangster fare so gruesome as to border on the cartoonish.
Fair (1 star)
Running time: 115 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening September 14, 2012
Finding Nemo (G). 3D re-release of the much-beloved animated adventure about a timid clownfish (Albert Brooks) who summons up the courage to embark on a perilous transoceanic trek to rescue a son (Alexander Gould) left trapped in a bowl in a dentist’s office after being netted by fishermen near the Great Barrier Reef. Voice cast includes Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney and Geoffrey Rush.
Resident Evil: Retribution (R for pervasive graphic violence). 5th installment in the grisly, sci-fi franchise finds Milla Jovovich reprising her role as an intrepid defender of the planet and forging new alliances in a high body-count fight against legions of flesh-eating zombies. With Boris Kodjoe, Oded Fehr, Sienna Guillory, Michelle Rodriguez and Bingbing Li.
10 Years (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, drug use and alcohol abuse). Skeletons-out-of-the-closet dramedy about the shocking confessions shared by five best friends (Channing Tatum, Justin Long, Chris Pratt, Oscar Isaac and Max Minghella) upon returning to their hometown for their 10th high school reunion. Ensemble cast includes Rosario Dawson, Anthony Mackie, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Ari Graynor, Kate Mara and Ron Livingston.
Arbitrage (R for profanity, drug use and violent images). Richard Gere stars in this Wall Street thriller as the philandering manager of a sinking hedge fund who implicates a friend of the family (Nate Parker) in the death of his mistress (Laetitia Casta) rather than risk damaging his marriage and reputation. With Susan Sarandon, Brit Marling and William Friedkin.
Bait 3D (R for profanity, graphic violence and grisly images). Disaster flick about the residents of a beachfront community who find themselves surrounded by a swarm of great white sharks after a tsunami leaves them trapped inside a submerged grocery store. Cast includes Xavier Samuel, Julian McMahon and Phoebe Tonkin.
Barfi! (Unrated). Romance drama about the love triangle which develops when a woman (Ileana D’Cruz) has second thoughts about rejecting a hearing and speech-impaired suitor (Ranbir Kapoor) after he falls for a mentally-challenged maiden (Priyanka Chopra). (In Hindi with subtitles)
Francine (Unrated). Oscar-winner Melissa Leo (for The Fighter) plays the title character in this introspective portrait of an ex-con adjusting back to civilian life in a rural region of upstate New York after paying her debt to society. With Victoria Charkut, Dave Clark and Keith Leonard.
I’m Carolyn Parker: The Good, The Mad, And The Beautiful (Unrated). Oscar-winner Jonathan Demme (for Silence Of The Lambs) directs this post-Katrina documentary chronicling the valiant struggle of a feisty, retired resident of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward to rebuild her home left devastated by the hurricane.
Liberal Arts (Unrated). Romantic dramedy about a just-jilted 35-year-old bachelor (Josh Radnor) who falls for a teenaged college student (Elizabeth Olsen) upon returning to his alma mater to attend one of his professor’s (Richard Jenkins) retirement party. Cast includes Zac Efron, Allison Janney, Kate Burton and Elizabeth Reasor.
The Master (R for profanity, sexuality and graphic nudity). Philip Seymour Hoffman handles the titular role of this tale of disillusionment, set in the wake of World War II, revolving around a devoted member (Joaquin Phoenix) of a burgeoning religious cult who gradually grows suspicious of the motivations of its charismatic founder. With Amy Adams, Laura Dern and Jesse Plemons.
The Stand Up (Unrated). New lease on life drama about a comedian (Jonathan Sollis) who retires after the tragic death of his girlfriend (Julia Dennis) only to get a second chance at love when he takes a job as a kindergarten teacher at a grammar school, where he develops a crush on a cute colleague (Margarita Levieva). Supporting cast includes Aidan Quinn, Jennifer Mudge and Jonathan Reed Wexler.
Step Up To The Plate (Unrated). Haute cuisine documentary about renowned French chef Michel Bras’ decision to hand over the reins of his three-star restaurant to his long-time assistant, his son, Sebastien. (In French with subtitles)
Stolen (R for violence and brief profanity). Nicolas Cage stars in this crime thriller about a recently-paroled master thief’s frantic search for a daughter (Sami Gayle) kidnapped for a ransom he can’t raise. With Malin Akerman, Josh Lucas and Danny Huston.
The Trouble With The Truth (R for profanity and sexual references). Bittersweet drama about a starving artist (John Shea) who takes some time to reflect with his ex-wife (Lea Thompson ) upon their failed marriage after their daughter (Danielle Harris) announces her engagement. With Keri Lynn Pratt, Ira Heiden and Rainy Kerwin.