Any film that asks viewers to take seriously the idea of Dennis Quaid as a writer is on a hiding to nothing from the first frame. To add insult to injury, the writing/directing pair behind this plodding drama get the actor, as writer Clay Hammond, to read from his latest book.
The writing (for which Quaid cannot be blamed) has to be heard to be believed and when he later starts intoning to a young acolyte about how writing is truer than real life (or some such tosh), it just gets worse.
Hammond's book is called The Words (in one of the film's many contrivances, it's a story within a story within a story) and it is our entry point into a literary thriller that will probably strike you as terribly sophisticated if your reading is limited to the back of the cereal packet at breakfast.
The Words (book and film) is about Rory Jansen (Cooper), a writer with ambition as large as his pile of rejection slips. When he stumbles across an unpublished manuscript - a heart-rending story of wartime tragedy - he presents it as his own to a publisher, under the inexplicably naff title The Window Tears.
The instant stardom that follows comes with its own risks. Enter Jeremy Irons' character, a man with no name. Spooky.
Part of the problem is that Cooper, whom People magazine last year called the sexiest man alive, looks about as trustworthy as a sewer rat. He's faintly sweating all the time and his eyes dart around so much it would be hard to believe he'd made an original cup of tea, much less penned a bestseller.
Why his loyal wife (Saldana, - Uhura in Star Trek and Neytiri in Avatar) doesn't ditch him is hard to fathom.
Other implausibilities abound (this penniless couple has a nice apartment and honeymoon in Paris) but the real problem is that you don't care about anyone - or the outcome.
James Lasdun's The Horned Man made a real thriller out of plagiarism. Someone should make a film of that.
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana
Directors: Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal
Running time: 102 mins
Rating: M (offensive language)
Verdict: Contrived and plodding