Words and Pictures
by George Wolf
What the? A summer movie aimed squarely at adults?
Where are the superheroes? Where are the explosions? Where’s the teen angst?
Even with its faults, Words and Pictures feels like a cool breeze in July, as clever repartee and winning performances combine for a throwback to classic, feel-good romance films of decades past.
And true to that spirit, our romantics start out as sparring adversaries.
Jack (Clive Owen) teaches honors English at a prep school. His promise as a writer is a distant memory, and he eases the self-loathing with constant word-game challenges to his fellow teachers, and plenty of alcohol. His antics on both fronts have led to his job hanging in the balance.
Dina (Juliette Binoche) is a respected artist struggling with failing health. She arrives at the school to teach honors art, and is immediately put off by Jack’s confrontational nature.
The confrontations escalate once Jack’s students tell him the new art teacher’s mantra: pictures are more vital than words.
Oh, no she dih-eh!
Like many of us of a certain age, screenwriter Gerald Di Pego is clearly chagrined at how society devalues not only the classic works of art and literature, but their very building blocks: images and prose. That complaint may not be new, but Di Pego finds some fun while pointing out that it’s still very relevant.
His script still has minefields aplenty – contrived situations, superfluous subplots and oversimplified personal demons – and Fred Schepisi’s lackluster direction doesn’t help, but Owen and Binoche are good enough to rise above it. They make every one of their scenes together a sublime delight.
You’ll have no trouble figuring out where Words and Pictures is going, but the witty wordplay and frisky chemistry of two veteran talents make it worth seeing through.