Words and Pictures
Out Now On-Demand
Clive Owen (Children of Men) and Juliette Binoche (Chocolat) star in this light romantic comedy about an English teacher who challenges the school's art teacher to a "war" between words and pictures and, in the process, sparks an unlikely romance.
"Prep school English teacher Jack (Owen) laments his students' obsession with social media and good grades - as opposed to rigorous engagement with language. A one-time literary star, Jack has not published in years. He's estranged from his son. In short, Jack has much to despair of, and when Jack despairs, Jack drinks...
"Dina (Binoche) is an abstract painter. Like Jack, she was once celebrated for her art, but the onset of arthritis has made the physical act of painting too painful to bear. Jack finds Dina attractive but icy; he flirts with and provokes her with equal relish. With a performance review looming and his job on the line, Jack comes upon an inspired method of galvanising student interest in their studies: he declares a war between words and pictures, confident that the former can convey greater meaning than the latter. Dina accepts Jack's challenge and the battles begin. But, before they even know it, their hearts have also entered the fray." (Toronto International Film Festival)
Comedy, Drama, Romance
Rating: M Offensive language
That this dramedy is itself flat and uninspired, strikes right at the heart of what Words and Pictures sets out to accomplish. Amidst several plot strands, at least a couple of which are wholly unnecessary, the film pits two high school teachers against one another in competition over whether images or the written word have higher merit, but fails to arouse enthusiasm in either.
Severe arthritis sufferer and novice art instructor Juliette Binoche goes head to head with bad boy English teacher Clive Owen, sporting a drinking problem and a wobbly Yank accent, but as the pair spar, sparks between them resoundingly fail to fire. Their notable absence of intellectual or romantic chemistry poses a significant problem, and combines with the film’s leaden pace to render it frequently insufferable. For director Fred Schepisi that’s a far cry from Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah’s onscreen frisson back when he helmed Roxanne.
In Schepisi’s defence, he’s not done any favours by Words and Pictures’ script, thanks to a series of predictable plot developments, clumsy dialogue and a portrayal of teachers as sassy banterers juggling difficult lives with the drive to truly inspire young people beyond all measure. Dead Poets Society this ain’t, something I’d normally be thankful of, but on this occasion provides another yardstick by which the film fails to measure up.
Los Angeles Times
New York Times
At The Movies (Australia)