Clive Owen and Juliet Binoche star in a romantic comedy by the director of Roxanne Fred Schepsi, made in 2013 but only seeing DVD release in the UK now. You may wonder why it took so long to come out and why there’s not been a bigger fuss made about it. Well let’s list the reasons.
Clive Owen stars as a drunk but passionate English teacher in a wealthy New England school. Once a hot-shot author he now spends his days teasing his colleagues and students with word games and getting sauced at any given moment. In enters Juliet Binoche’s celebrated artist who is suffering the on-set of a physically debilitating to teach the art class. The pair enter into a battle for their students hearts and minds, plus the reputations of their respective fields, by trying to show which is more important in life words or pictures. As you may have guessed during the course of bickering between author and artists a relationship slowly blossoms. That’s about it. Words and Pictures.
It’s a slight story and one that feels like to the middle-class Steve Martin style comedies of the early 90s. Word and Pictures biggest problem though is that’s it’s not drama is unmoving and it’s humour smug at best. Clive Owen’s teacher likes to walk around showing everyone how clever he is by saying a word and then giving the origin of said word, whether it be latin, french, celtic. Once or twice it may have been a quirk to show his ego, but no he does this the entire way through the film. It’s never funny. It’s never interesting. Just irritating. You will want to hit him. Not sympathise with him
The same goes for the students of this high school. Cretinous creations each and last one of them. The few that the film focuses in on are so broadly drawn – the loud mouth, the shy one with raw talent, the entitled one. Plus in an entire high school there only ever looks like there’s around twenty students in total. Juliet Binoche puts in a spirited performance that mostly relies on her being standoffish and shouting at students to make them do better. Then she shouts at Clive Owen for being a waste of space whilst he quips about long words. There’s nearly two hours of this.
The film plods along entirely as you would expect given the plot but you will probably find yourself hard pressed to care. It’s quite remarkable that a director like Schepisi who can direct great drama like A Cry in the Dark and rom-com’s such as Roxanne and create something that is so utterly devoid of interest. Even Fierce Creatures was a very light but kind of enjoyable watch but Words and Pictures is just an utter chasm of people loving the smell of their own farts.
Any pluses? Bruce Davison is in it and he’s welcome on my screen any time. To be fair a lot of the paintings shown by Binoche (and apparently painted by her) are quite lovely. What else? Oh yeah there’s a David Bowie song in one sequence that’s a plus I guess.
If you enjoy a film that spends most of it’s time quoting other people’s works at you and regurgitating art philosophy that the writer happened to read that week you may enjoy Words and Pictures. If, shockingly, you don’t and you are one of those people who could not stand Dead Poet’s Society you would do best to stay well clear. It will own angry up the blood.