Published Jul 04, 2014A team underachieves and the coach gets fired; parents ignore their children and teachers get blamed for subpar results in the classroom. Sometimes, the wrong people pay. Fred Schepisi's Words and Pictures is a paint-by-numbers cliché crossed with a clunky, misshapen mess, but the blame will land squarely on stars Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, neither of whom will likely ever top-line a romantic comedy again.
This isn't even to say that Words and Pictures is a romantic comedy. It thinks it is, but it really isn't. It trends much more towards dramedy, a portmanteau that's almost as intolerable as was this waste of 111 minutes. Oh, and it's not funny. So there's that.
Words and Pictures concerns itself with two teachers at a fancy-schmancy Maine prep school. Jack Marcus (Owen) is a has-been writer whose Honours English students (whom he calls "droids") are regularly subjected to his hatred of the Internet generation and his brand of "Real Talk," wherein he blows minds by explaining that Haikus were, like, the original tweets. (It's good to know some hack named Gerald Di Pego updated the "HAY KIDZ POETREE WUZ DA ORIGINAL RAPZ!" thing.) Jack is divorced (shocker!), drinks too much (shocker!), and his rebellious teacher shtick is wearing thin on everyone he works with and for.
Enter the new Honours Art teacher Dina Delsanto (Binoche), a famous painter whose crippling rheumatoid arthritis has rendered her unable to paint like she used to. She's known as The Icicle because, essentially, she doesn't suffer fools like smarm-charmy Jack Marcus gladly.
Marcus and Delsanto are (of course) polar opposites and are (of course) attracted to each other, but they (of course) articulate it via sniping and game-playing, because 40-somethings are wont to act like teenagers. Predictably, their attraction goes the way of rivalry, and that rivalry becomes a "war" that manifests as a school-wide debate as to whether words (Marcus' passion) or pictures (Delsanto's) are more important and powerful.
It's supposed to look like a playful, high-minded debate, but, as the Honours English class is essentially the Honours Art class, the "war" plays out as two caricatured ideologues attempting to indoctrinate children so as to fuel to their psychosexual fire. It's weird, especially insofar as it's supposed to segue into how two flawed, relatively unlikeable (but redeemable!) people might possible fall for each other.
Badly scripted and clumsily executed, I can only assume Words and Pictures is getting a July 4 release so parents can watch something while their kids watch whatever CGI blockbuster is making the rounds. I can't believe I'm writing this, but those parents deserve better. (D Films)