The ultimate best seller …. that’s what every writer dreams of, right? It’s no different for Rory Jansen (played by Bradley Cooper), who spends three years and every drop of his blood, sweat and tears in an effort to write the Great American Novel. His partner, Dora (by Zoe Saldana) supports him every step of the way and when it’s finished, he proudly walks it around publisher after publisher to get it into print. But he is without success. Frustrated and broke, he pleads to his father (by J. K. Simmons) one more time for some money to get by, then takes a job at a publishing house until he can see his way clear to getting the book “out there”. He feels defeated, but there’s still a writer in him deep down. Rory and Dora marry and honeymoon in Paris and while browsing through an antique store there, Dora finds the perfect gift for her writer husband, a battered leather briefcase that’s obviously seen a lot of life. This sparks Rory into another writing phase and he produces a fabulous second novel that Dora and his publisher boss can’t wait to get into print. He’s done it – he’s produced the ultimate best seller and it’s received with much acclaim around the country. At last – it’s what he’s always dreamed of … success and fame as an author! There’s only one slight hitch … Rory hasn’t written the story, it belongs to another writer and Rory’s presented it as his own. The deceit goes undiscovered until one day when Rory’s taking a break from the paparazzi in a park and an Old Man (by Jeremy Irons) happens to get chatting to him – during their chat the real truth is exposed. Now … Rory faces the ultimate decision … keep quiet and keep taking the fame and adulation he loves, but doesn’t deserve? … or come clean and face the shame and consequences?
There are layers to this movie – each one is interesting in its own right, but as an ensemble, the sum of all these interesting parts doesn’t enrich the outcome – in fact, it seems to dilute it. Here we have the interesting moral dilemma of the writer Jansen who has plagiarised another writer’s work. Then, the love story between Rory and Dora, the relationship between Rory and the Old Man in the park and not least of which the beautiful story in the “great book” itself. On their own, each of these has layers and would be fascinating to further explore – but together, it doesn’t work. Bradley Cooper does his best in this role and he is fine, Zoe Saldana is fine too. Dennis Quaid’s role is strange and he goes through the motions of this character’s involvement, but I’d say the best and most interesting performance is from Jeremy Irons as the Old Man. The actual story in the Great Novel is quite lovely too. The movie creates an interesting dilemma, but it isn’t treated any differently this time around. It has great components, but overall it’s only okay.
Made in 2012. Directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal.