Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Words and The Dreams

(See the IMDB page for THE WORDS HERE.)
(See the Rotten Tomatoes Reviews page for THE WORDS HERE.)
(See the official website for THE WORDS HERE.)

This past weekend I saw the film THE WORDS, which took the new screenwriter/director team of Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal 11 years to make, from when they had the first idea for the story, until it opened nationwide in the U.S. this past Friday.   Its amazing cast includes Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, Dennis Quaid, J.K. Simmons (from TNT's TV crime drama The Closer, the film Extract, and those funny Farmer's Insurance Commercials), Zeljko Ivanek (who was fantastic in the brilliant-but-cancelled-after-one-season sci-fi TV series on NBC, The Event), This is Spinal Tap's Michael McKean (in one of his rare but overdue purely dramatic roles), and some British dude, I always forget his name...oh, yeah.  Jeremy Irons. A.K.A. THE BEST ACTOR TO EVER LIVE.

It was just this morning that I did a slight bit of research on Mr. Klugman and Mr. Sternhal, and though I don't know their full stories, it makes a lot of sense that they seem to be guys who have been grinding it out in L.A. for more than a decade, and this would seem to be their first nationwide, Hollywood success. 

The film deals in an abundance of themes and threads, to get its audience thinking and asking itself where it stands on several complex aspects of life.  One of these issues, which it offers up with cleverness and intelligence is this: what it feels like to some of us who have, at times, found ourselves right where this writer/director duo was 11 years ago...pursuing a dream, working hard as artists, but without high-level recognition in their field yet, to offer well-meaning friends, family, partners and/or spouses who might ask: "So, how's it going?" while really meaning, "So, have you become rich and famous yet, or are you going to have to hang it up and get a 'REAL JOB' now?"

Many brave souls who have traveled their path as a professional actor, musician, painter, etc. will surely recognize the scene where the central character, Rory Jansen (played by Mr. Cooper) is lectured by his father (played brilliantly by Mr. Simmons) on the unassailable truths of the 'REAL WORLD' espoused by so many.  And they will most likely wince at the rather harsh dash of realism Mr. Simmons brings to the screen.

As often happens in life, the film offers no easy answers to the uncomfortable situation  Rory the struggling writer finds himself in.  At a crucial point in his journey, he is offered a difficult choice and makes one.  And then he must live with the consequences.

As I said, there are a number of themes I could comment on - plagiarism, accepting one's past and one's mistakes, what constitutes true artistic inspiration, what the true value of career recognition and success is.  But I think I'll leave you to explore those for yourself, if you choose to see this excellent film.

One other thing that the film did make me think of.  It's something I've thought of quite a bit over the past few years.  It seems bizarre to me that there is so much in our culture that tells us to "Follow Our Dreams," "Take Risks," "Dream Big," "Take Chances," "Seize the Day" and "Never Give Up on Our Dreams."  And at the same time, there is such enormous pressure, from so many sources, upon each and every one of settle for things and situations that are considered more stable and more reliable.  To avoid risk. To play it safe.

These two opposite, diametrically-opposed and contradictory messages make me, well...tired.  As anyone who has followed a dream themselves knows, following one's dream is usually tiring enough all on its own, without adding in the constant conflicting thought that maybe you shouldn't even be following it in the first place, maybe you should have picked something safer, more stable and more reliable a long time ago.

I decided a while back that I was tired of fighting such a back-and-forth, futile game all the time in my own mind.  So I just don't play it anymore.  I follow where my dreams lead me.  If someone else has a problem with it, that's their deal, their right to feel that way, and really - none of my damn business.  I ignore them entirely, and continually happily on my way.

And even beyond that, who says following your dream will automatically and undoubtedly give you an unsafe, unreliable and unstable life that will scare the hell out of you and make you miserable on a daily basis?  Can we follow our dreams and feel safe? Safe in the knowing that because we are connected to our innermost self, because we are being guided by the truest part of ourselves, because we are choosing a life filled with meaning and purpose, we will be the happiest and most fulfilled? Well, of course we can.

I encourage you to go see The Words, if you are looking for a great film to go to.  It's a compelling story that is brilliantly told, by a huge cast and crew of people who at some point in their past, in spite of what others may have thought or told them, decided to follow their own amazing dreams.

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  1. I was with it until the last 5-10 minutes. I was completely captured by the story, both from a dramatic and from an artistic point of view. And then I think they dropped the ball.

    All of the actors did really nice work, especially Bradley Cooper (who also produced). I just think the script failed them at the end. Ambiguous endings are commonplace, but an ambiguous ending in a film about "stories" - about lives - about journeys - is a mistake, to me. I'm sure it worked for some people, but I sat there as the credits rolled wishing someone had said, "REALLY end it. Even if nobody gets what they want. ACTUALLY end it. No matter if everyone is sad or everyone loses everything or gains nothing or whatever. Just give it finality. Otherwise we've been invested in characters for no pay off of any kind."

    I'm not so meta to think that that's what they wanted. "With no clear resolution, it harkens to the idea of the author whose art is a clear reflection of their lives, with no beginning or end and no real sense of accomplishment." I just made that up and I want to punch myself in the face for typing it.

    I think you're wonderful though. Don't let anyone ever tell you differently.


    1. Thanks for reading my review, and for the insightful comment, Murdock! I appreciate it. The ambiguity at the close of the film irked me as well, but I guess I attributed that (for me, only) to my obsession with perfect closure on everything LOL. I also made up my own ending in my mind afterward, because, as I forget who it was (maybe Horton Foote?) who said: "There are three great obsessions in America: sports, sex, and rewriting someone else's script."