(director/writer: Brian Klugman/Lee Sternthal; cinematographer: Antonio Calvache; editor: Leslie Jones; music: Marcelo Zarvos; cast: Bradley Cooper (Rory Jansen), Jeremy Irons (the Old Man), Dennis Quaid (Clay Hammond), Olivia Wilde (Daniella), Zoë Saldana (Dora Jansen), Nora Arnezeder (Celia), Ben Barnes (the Young Man), Ron Rifkin (Timothy Epstein), J.K. Simmons (Mr. Jansen); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Jim Young/Tatiana Kelly/Michael Benaroya; CBS Films; 2012)
“A flat, humorless and unconvincing melodrama about a literary fraud.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A flat, humorless and unconvincing melodrama about a literary fraud written and directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal, who can’t resist plying us with inane life lessons such as live with your life choices, choose to live life either as fiction or real life, choose a woman over words and something to the effect of don’t sweat moral things if no one discovers the truth. The film about words is betrayed by its inability to express itself clearly with any relevance. It has the look of a middle brow teleplay. Also the acting is dreadful, from the miscast Bradley Cooper’s lame interpretation of a shallow author to an overacting Jeremy Irons’ martyr performance as a brilliant aging writer reduced to selling plants and to be cool with witnessing his words stolen by an ambitious young upstart.
Aspiring hack writer Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper) while honeymooning in Paris with his supportive black wife Dora (Zoë Saldana) finds an unpublished genius manuscript inside an old briefcase he buys in an antiques store. The unpublished Rory, whose own novel is rejected, when back at work in his menial job at a NYC literary agency, presents the manuscript as his to the boss and it becomes an acclaimed bestseller. One day while sitting in Central Park and soaking in all his success, Rory is approached by an old man (Jeremy Irons) who claims he wrote the novel and tells him he wrote it as a young World War II veteran in Paris, married to a young French girl (Nora Arnezeder), and writes of the joys and pains of the marriage. After their early happy days there was the sorrow when their infant died and the wife upset him greatly when she left the manuscript behind when they moved and couldn’t remember where she put it.
The second half of the film becomes, if you can believe, even more tedious than the first part, as it tells another story within the story. A wealthy pompous hotshot author, Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid), gives a lecture at a literary book event about his next book telling about Rory’s damning literary secret. Clay later tells in his luxury penthouse pad, how the guilt-ridden Rory resolved things, to a sexy Columbia University student and aspiring author (Olivia Wilde) he hopes to bed down with. It ends with Clay hinting that he might indeed be Rory. An ending that makes as little sense as this bumbling pic, whose only concern is to keep us guessing to the end about what happened to Rory and could care less about getting things right about publishing or writing. The creators involved in this project probably watched more soap operas than read good books.
The more the pic tries to give depth or explanations to its superficial soap opera tale, the more disingenuous it becomes.
REVIEWED ON 9/10/2012 GRADE: C