Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Words

There is no way of writing a review of The Words without giving spoilers. So, if you’re deathly afraid of hints, stay away and don’t read any further. However, there would be no earthly way I could get you to rent The Words if I told you that this is a tale about a young author who can’t get his book published.

So, I’ll add to that story by saying that, after three discouraging years of writing and getting no interest from publishers, he comes across a fully written novel, apparently out of the past, a forgotten remnant hidden in an old valise in a Parisian antique store. He recognizes immediately that the story, the style of writing, is just as how he had always wanted to be able to write. So much so that he convinces himself for a moment that he, himself, had written it, even though he knows deep down he did not, and has no idea who did. So he gives it to a publisher who recognizes a best seller and publishes it.

This story isn’t linear at all, but circular. In fact, it’s a story within a story within a story. I found myself mystified at each level, wondering what will come next. Such a simple story. Yet, as it turned out, not so simple at all.

Bradley Cooper stars in The Words.  Cooper is getting quite a deserved reputation for not trading in on the success of such films as The Hangover by appearing in special, smaller films like The Silver Linings Playbook and, yes, The Words.

Thumb’s up.

Sunday, March 03, 2013


There are two Hitchcock films out there -- this is the one with the outstanding cast but weirdly constructed story.

You immediately recognize Anthony Hopkins, even with face makeup and tummy pillow, as he addresses the audience -- much like he did in his well-known TV show. Only this time it's in color, so you eventually realize this is for real, not a TV show at all.  In this case, the killer behind the Psycho story is talking to him.

It's a contrivance that's not needed, is a total distraction, and badly adds to the macabre aspect of how Hitchcock brought Psycho to life.  It wasn't an easy transition from book to Hitchcockian suspense thriller, as this movie will tell you. It shows that much of Hitchcock's success was due to his brilliance and his wife's assistance.

Much of the film, actually, is a love story between an arrogant film director with numerous self doubts and an accomplished woman with tons of film experience in her own right. Only Alma walks several steps behind the master in any public appearances.  However, the movie heavily hints at the dark side of Hitchcock, as he's shown ogling models, even photos of them, from his studio office. And this was before The Birds, where he alledgedly stalked Tippi Hedren.

The guest stars are interesting. Scarlett Johansson plays Janet Leigh as a rather straightforward, beautiful actress who had a huge resume before Psycho. You wonder why she even took the role, but that's never explained. The role in Psycho was a total 180 from her usual screen roles of the pure damsel in distress. Perhaps that was the point.

And a young Anthony Perkins is played by James D'Arcy, a really young, bumbling actor with mother issues. I thought Perkins turned in a fine, nuanced performance, and his performance is what really made the movie click.

There are many, many funny moments in the film, not the least provided by Hitchcock. As he told one actor, "Call me Hitch, and hold the Cock." And the scenes with the industry's Censor board are hysterical. Imagine not being able to show a toilet in a film...?

Hitchcock is thoroughly enjoyable with a smart screenplay, unfortunately with dark overtones lain in the form of Hitch's demon (the Psycho killer) and his own inadequacies thrown in. Helen Mirren is a jewel in the role, as she's able to look past all of these foibles to the miracle-maker on the set. As a viewer, however, I can't forget the monster Hitch truly was, albeit a magical filmmaker. I absolutely believe the extraordinary measures he took to ensure that his leading ladies gave him their best performances. Talk about macabre.

Thumb's up.