The Words, starring Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, and a range of other big names, tells the tale of numerous authors tangled in plots-within-plots, all centered on a plagiarized manuscript. While it's visually appealing, the storylines simply don't work:
- The "confusing it’s-all-a-story device has the impact of reducing the film’s featherweight examination of moral issues to zero," writes Lou Lumenick in the New York Post. It "practically licks your face like a puppy in its futile desire to be taken seriously as romantic drama," but it's actually "a perfect storm of a hoot."
- The seriousness is a joke, and the "nested Russian-doll narrative" is tedious, agrees Dana Stevens at Slate. "For a film that purports to be about the love of literature and the call of the writerly life, The Words is remarkably uninterested in playing with either language or ideas. It’s solemn and dull to a degree that can’t help but breed fantasies of Rocky Horror-style heckling."
- "I enjoyed the settings, the periods, and the acting," acknowledges Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. "I can't go so far as to say I cared about the story, particularly after it became clear that its structure was too clever by half."
- The film "tries too hard to be smart," writes Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times. "What saving grace there is comes in the look of things. It's lush in the right places, lean in others."