At some point in July, the Wife and I saw Words and Pictures at the Spectrum 8 Theatre. I forgot to write a review straight on, partly because I was busy, but also because I don’t particularly enjoy scribing negative reviews. ESPECIALLY when I REALLY wanted to like the film.
The premise is that prep school English teacher Jack Marcus (Clive Owen), once an acclaimed writer himself, is a burned-out, functional alcoholic. He tries to motivate his students to value the written word.
He starts this contrived competition with the new teacher Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche), a well-regarded abstract painter now struggling with rheumatoid arthritis, about whether…well, read the title… are more important.
Some of it is mildly inspirational in the teacher-motivates-students plot in a number of better movies. Some of it is hokey, such as a scene in which she struggles to paint with nice classical music, while he drinks to excess while raucous David Bowie is the soundtrack. But the ending of this movie I didn’t believe AT ALL.
The Wife liked this quite a bit more than I. As a teacher, I think she appreciated the non-traditional ways both characters attempted to engage their students. And I did as well, but it wasn’t enough to ignore its failings.
I loved Binoche in Chocolat, and apparently, she does her own painting here, credibly. I think the failure of Words and Pictures is not with her. It’s not with Owen, either, though his character is never as charming as we’re supposed to believe. The real issue is the somewhat hackneyed script.