I know that I am probably being a little melodramatic, but I am a writer and sometimes that is my job because every once in a while there is a movie that just sends a cold shiver up the spine after you’ve watched it…and it’s even worse when it wasn’t supposed. “Words & Pictures” is such a dreadfully lazy effort that it may have been more entertaining to simply light the admission fee on fire and watch it burn.
It’s another dull year for Prep school English teacher Jack Marcus (Clive Owen)as he laments his students’ obsession with social media and good grades rather than engaging with the power of the written word. A one-time literary rising star, Jack has not published in years filling his spare time with drink versus the art of language having given up on any hope of an intellectual or emotional challenge. That all changes one eventful day when he meets his match in Dina Delsanto (Juliette 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 and zeal. However with a performance review looming and his teaching job on the line, Jack hatches an inspired plan for galvanizing student interest in their studies: he declares a war between Words and Pictures, confident that the former can convey greater meaning than the latter, and the battle lines are subsequently drawn in many more places than the classroom.
As a middle aged romance meets “Dead Poets Society” this must have SEEMED like a good idea on paper, but in actually this is such a banal mess that it is a little insulting to think that it ever got green lit because not much of anything in this effort actually works.
Director Fred Schepisi is a steady enough hand and nothing really drags or looks particularly bad but it falls apart with bad dialogue and hokey situations. Writer Gerard Di Pego never truly gave us any moments or characters that we can get behind as they are devoid of originality or even any endearing qualities. It is stilted and boring at almost every turn and its depiction of a variety of serious family and medical issues are borderline insulting to the intelligence. It’s less of a movie and more of a serious of moments ranging from painfully dull to just dumb and the ensemble cast is more or less on autopilot for what has to qualify as a ‘paycheck job’ gone horribly awry.
Clive Owen was borderline trolling this role as the charmingly swarthy English teacher whose glory days were behind him. The material was terribly weak and it just didn’t allow him the chance to develop any depth with the character and he just ended up as a characture of divorced writers and broken souls that we’ve seen in other movies. Juliette Binoche just ends up going for the tortured and artistic type that closes themselves off from other relationships and we’ve seen that countless times before.
I’ll give this movie one star based on the fact the Juliette Binoche made her own paintings which were actually quite impressive, but that is the only thing in “Words and Pictures” that deserves to be seen, because quite frankly the rest of this is just an unholy mess.
1 out of 5 stars.
“Words and Pictures” is now playing at theatres in Toronto and Vancouver now. Please check with local listings for show times.