As singer F R David once sang, "Words don't come easy". Especially not for the writer-directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal who, armed with an arsenal of shop-worn literary cliches, try hard to deliver a story within a story, within a story. But although this overly-ambitious film has all these layers, not all are intriguing.
Struggling aspiring novelist Rory (Bradley Cooper) becomes everybody's literary darling when he finds an unpublished manuscript inside an old briefcase as publishes it as his own. Life is sweet until he is confronted by the manuscript's original author (Jeremy Irons).
But, hang on, Rory is actually a character in a book by novelist Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid), and things start flashbacking back and forth as lines blur and the film-makers want you to figure out what's real and what's fiction.
You wish the film was better than it is, simply because of the effort of its talented cast, particularly Irons, who brings such subtly and emotional nuance to his character as the wronged old man; and Ben Barnes as his gorgeous, fresh-faced younger version.
But good acting, and the easy-on-the-eyes pairing of Cooper and Zoe Saldana (who plays his wife), isn't enough to make you forgive the sappy script and empty plot.
This isn't Spike Jonze's excellent Adaptation, though it wants so desperately to be. Alas, the fun gets lost along the way, and then you find out that words really don't come easy.