A lot of people think of Bradley Cooper (“The Hangover”) as a smug douchebag. He takes on idiotic roles, screws them up and then pretends to have one of those frustratingly aloof demeanors when confronted. And to make things worse, he tries to fake-cry for no apparent reason on “Inside The Actors Studio.” I mean, come on man — you’re not supposed to act like a phony turd in front of James Lipton.

The Words

At Quality 16 and Rave
CBS Films

Cooper’s nose for mediocre scripts strikes again with his most recent film, “The Words.” But somehow, Cooper is not the only significant reason “The Words” is an exasperatingly slow torture-fest of a movie. Sure, the confused nature of Cooper’s portrayal adds to the movie’s forced feel, but what it all boils down to is heavy-handed direction and a script so full of itself that it insists on dragging the viewer through the most insignificant plot details in a failed attempt to come across as complex.

To be fair, “The Words” does have a somewhat interesting plotline involving a story within a story — kind of like “Inception,” except starring writers. We pick up at a book reading by well-known author Clayton Hammond (Dennis Quaid, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”) titled “The Words.” The book tells the story of a struggling young writer, Rory Jansen (Cooper), as he fruitlessly attempts to get his first novel published. Finally, Rory’s luck appears to turn around when his wife Dora (Zoe Saldana, “Avatar”) buys him a tattered old briefcase while they are honeymooning in Paris.

The briefcase contains an old manuscript for a brilliant, unpublished and seemingly authorless novel about a post-World War II love story. Rory plagiarizes the novel word-for-word and has it published. The novel becomes an overnight sensation, and everything about Rory’s crappy life seems to be changing for the better — until an old man (Jeremy Irons, “Margin Call”) shows up and reveals himself to be the real author.

Unceremoniously, what could have been a decent, if not amazing movie devolves into a sloppily written and delivered testament about how stealing someone else’s work can ruin lives. It’s an important moral, but the script overdoes it — and to be completely honest, who really wants to watch a confused Bradley Cooper bitching about life? Given Cooper’s muddled performance, no one cares.

The one redeeming feature in the movie is Saldana’s portrayal of an instinctively doting wife. Needless to say, the performance won’t get much attention due to the shitty nature of everything surrounding it, but there’s no denying that Saldana delivers a layered interpretation of an apparently one-dimensional character.

But her performance simply isn’t enough. Though the movie has the look and feel of a film that wants to take itself seriously, the clumsy direction by first-timers Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal turns it into a boring and unnecessarily complicated slog-fest. Behind all the redundancy is an earnest attempt at telling a story about how a small mistake has the potential to push a man’s life down the course of ruin. If only it didn’t try to beat us over the head with it.

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