Synopsis: A witty romantic drama, Words and Pictures stars the engaging duo of Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen working together on-screen for the first time. Prep school English teacher Jack Marcus (Owen) laments his students’ obsession with social media and good grades rather than engaging with the power of the written word. A one-time literary star, Jack has not published in years filling his spare time with drink versus the art of language. He meets his match in Dina Delsanto (Binoche) – an abstract painter and new teacher on campus, who was once celebrated for her art. From the start, the two flirt and provoke each other with equal relish.
Release Date: June 6, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Romance
It’s interesting that a war between verbal communication and visual images would unfold in a movie, since a movie is basically a combination of the two, but that’s exactly the battle that is at the root of director Fred Schepisi’s Words and Pictures. It’s a war that, of course, can’t be won by either side, but Words and Pictures definitely makes it fun to watch.
Jack Marcus (Intruders Clive Owen) is an alcoholic poet who has let his addiction get the better of him. Finding himself unable to get creatively inspired, he teaches high school English instead of writing. Mr. Mark (as his students call him) appears to have met his intellectual match when a new art teacher, Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche from Certified Copy), is hired by the school. Delsanto is a talented and renowned painter who has been sidelined by her own affliction; she has rheumatoid arthritis that makes it painful for her to even pick up her paint brushes. Jack and Delsanto mix about as well as oil and water, clashing immediately on just about every subject imaginable. When they start a debate over which is more valuable, the written word or the visual image, it ignites a school-wide argument. The “War of Words and Pictures” inspires the students and energizes the teachers, bringing Jack and Delsanto together in the process. However, as the pair finds themselves being pulled closer and closer to each other, both still deal with his or her own personal demons. They hardly even have time for friendship, let alone a relationship.
To call Words and Pictures a romantic comedy is a disservice to the film. It’s a much better film than that label would imply. It may be directed by Fred Schepisi, the man who brought the world Roxanne, but he’s come a long way since 1987. The screenplay, written by Gerald Di Pego (Phenomenon), has all of the intelligence and wit of Schepisi’s other films, but there’s a lot more to Words and Pictures. At its base, it’s a film about two lonely people who need each other but are too stubborn to realize it. On a deeper level, the symbolism of Jack and Delsanto representing the written word and the visual image shouldn’t be overlooked; both think they can exist independently, but are stronger when they are combined.
The biggest feather in the cap of Words and Pictures is its ability to connect with its audience. The film goes from humorous to gut-punching at the drop of a hat, sometimes several times within the same scene. Appealing to the viewer’s heads as well as their hearts, half the movie is spent smiling and the other half crying. The audience is torn between Mr. Mark and Delsanto as far as who they want to win the impromptu war, but they love to see the fight; in fact, if there’s a spot where the film loses effect, it’s when the two rivals are getting chummy and are being too nice to each other. There’s a point in the film where the narrative starts to follow the unwritten rules of big Hollywood rom-coms, and that’s where it loses its steam. Thankfully, the truce is short-lived, and the battle between Words and Pictures is able to play out to its inevitable conclusion. Which is very satisfying, even if it’s a bit predictable. It’s a rare treat: a story that hasn’t been done to death by Hollywood told in a very effective way.
Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche own Words and Pictures; it’s their film, the other characters just occupy space in it. The chemistry between the two actors is wonderful, with each playing off of the other like an old married couple. There is an odd tension that the characters exhibit where they aren’t really enemies, but they verbally and emotionally spar back and forth in nearly every scene, and watching them go at it is amazingly fun. The chemistry is a bit less effective when the two characters are being nice to each other, but that’s not the fault of the actors; the script is written that way, and Owen and Binoche make the best of it. Both the heartbreaking and the humorous aspects of the film are handled equally well, and the two actors bring more than just words and pictures to Words and Pictures; they bring a cool combination of emotion and electricity.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Fred Schepisi
- Screenwriter(s): Gerald Di Pego
- Cast: Clive Owen (Jack Marcus)Juliette Binoche (Dina Delsanto)Valerie Tian (Emily) Bruce Davison (Walt)
- Editor(s): Peter Honess
- Cinematographer: Ian Baker
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Paul Grabowsky
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA