Maybe in the environment of a theater showing art-house fair, The Words would have received more positive words from critics. Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times writes that it "tries too hard to be smart with its highbrow take on the old 'gotcha' theme. It is gorgeously shot to look highbrow as well; in that it succeeds." But overall, she writes, "It's a snooze." Amy Biancolli in the San Francisco Chronicle allows that the movie was written with "an earnest aesthetic bent" and has "a fair chance of generating interest." But in conclusion, she sums up, " The Words is a decent, ambitious, unoriginal film about a decent, ambitious, unoriginal writer. Both aim for greatness. Both fall short." Those words, however, are positively benevolent compared with those of Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe who writes that writer-directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal "have made a drama of spinelessness, passivity, and mild pretentiousness." On the other hand, several critics find a number of things that they like about the movie Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times concludes "I enjoyed the settings, the periods and the acting. I can't go so far as to say I cared about the story, particularly after it became clear that its structure was too clever by half." But it is a structure that Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer finds quite remarkable. Ordinarily, he writes, this would be "the kind of sweeping melodrama that belongs in the late-night lineup of Turner Classic Movies." He credits the two writer-directors for wresting "emotional truth out of hokum. They also wrest intelligent, nuanced performances from their cast." Stephen Holden in The New York Times does not dish out that kind of praise, suggesting that it be regarded merely as "a clever, entertaining yarn that doesn't bear close scrutiny."
There's already an Oscars buzz surrounding this movie.