An Intelligent, Adult Romantic Comedy
By Skip Sheffield
“Words and Pictures’ is a romantic comedy for intelligent, thoughtful adults.
Written by Gerald Di Pego (“The Forgotten”) and directed by Fred Schipisi (“Six Degrees of Separation”), “Words and Pictures” is also a philosophical debate on the power of the printed word versus visual art, starring two mature, highly skilled actors.
Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) is a writer whose creative inspiration has dried up over the course of teaching Honors English to unresponsive rich kids at a Maine prep school. Jack has sought solace in alcohol in increasing doses, which has only deepened his depression.
Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche) is a new art teacher at the school. Dina is lovely, determined and a talented artist, but she is increasingly incapacitated by rheumatoid arthritis.
Already in his cups early in the morning, Jack gets into a debate with Dina, who proclaims “words are lies… traps.”
Since Jack’s entire life is based on the printed word, Jack takes Dina’s words as a challenge, and he throws down the gauntlet.
“This is war,” he declares. Jack wants a public contest that will be voted on by the students. He will present his best literary effort and she will paint her finest abstract painting.
In a romantic comedy there is always more. Jack is not the most honest or moral competitor. Dina is being increasingly disabled by her disease. Of course bit by bit these adversaries will fall in love. It sounds cliched, corny and hokey, but it is not totally, thanks to the finely nuanced performances by Clive Owens as a tormented, once-great talent and the radiantly beautiful Juliette Binoche as a gifted artist (Binoche did her own painting onscreen) whose body is failing her. Then there are the students; an odd, interesting lot used mostly as diversions.
“Words and Pictures” is the kind of movie that makes you contemplate your own failings and weaknesses. In that sense it is the opposite of sugary. On the other hand it advances the ever-optimistic- yes sweet- notion that redemption is possible.