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So great to have a movie adults can enjoy amidst a summer of cartoon
plots & characters; a movie you can actually take your family to
without being bombarded by violence, sex and f-bombs. I loved it. Clive
Owen and Juliette Binoche as artists each struggling with demons that
have crippled (in Binoche's case, literally) their creative abilities,
deliver wonderful performances, as does the entire cast. The well-paced
script rolls along at just the right pace, while giving us moments of
pause to feel each character's pain and root for their ultimate
You'd have to be pretty cynical to not like this movie. Could one pick it apart? As with any film, the answer is "sure." But why? Just go. Buy your popcorn and enjoy a really good-hearted film. The audience I saw it with (almost all over 40) was cheering at the end.
At a posh New England secondary school, with an ocean setting, English teacher Jack (Clive Owen) is in the midst of a middle age crisis. Only, he doesn't know it. Not yet. Others have observed that he drinks too much and is often a few minutes late to class, with poor lesson planning. To his credit, Jack is extremely dedicated and bright, making the most of his classes and connecting well with students. But, he is headed for trouble. That is, until a new art teacher, Dina (Juliette Binoche) arrives at the academy, cane in hand, for she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. Needless to say, Jack rubs her the wrong way almost instantly, although it is quite clear that Dina can give tit for tat. After a discussion in her art honors class, students tell Jack that Dina thinks words are far less important and meaningful than pictures. Ho ho, Jack pounces on this pronto. Now, he tells his pupils, this is war and lays out a strong defense of the power of words by reading many meaningful passages of literature. An ultimate challenge of the two dueling forms of communication may lie ahead. In the meantime, Jack is told he is going to be "reviewed" by the board of directors and may be let go. He also is having difficulties with his college age son. Happily, Dina may be showing some romantic interest in Jack. What lies ahead in the battle of words and pictures? This wonderful and poignant movie is most welcome in this age of flicks aimed at young adult males. It offers a romance between middle aged characters and has an alluring, finely written script. Owen and Binoche are pitch perfect in their roles while the supporting cast of Bruce Davison, Amy Brenneman, and well-selected teenage actors are charming, too. The coastal setting is absolutely lovely while costumes, photography, and a worthy direction by Fred Schepisi bring terrific results. Please go support this movie, true-blue film fans. Unless you do, Hollywood won't offer this kind of movie very often.
This film is recommended.
There have been many philosophical arguments about the power of words and images. If one picture is worth a thousand words, and actions speak louder than words, who are we to disagree? In the battle of the sexes, the latest independent film, Words and Pictures, takes on this dispute in telling its love story about an English professor and an artist, both of whom have conflicting viewpoints on the subject and their budding courtship.
Jack (Clive Owen) is an alcoholic academic who values the sacred text above all else. As fate would have it, he meets Dina (Juliette Binoche), an art teacher and painter whose rheumatoid arthritis is beginning to cripple her creative output. Both teach at an exclusive prep school. He teaches English, she teaches art, and it is their volatile relationship that is at the heart of this romantic film. One has lost that creative spark to alcohol, the other literally coming to grips with her own physical limitations. Each questions their own value and importance in a rivalry set between the schools based on the theoretical debate of words vs. pictures.
Of course, they will fall in love. It's inevitable, isn't it? Predictable. Formulaic. Conventional. Clichéd. Those are some words that come to mind. Entertaining. Diverting. Enjoyable. Thought provoking. Those are some more words that succinctly describe Words and Pictures. ￼ Fred Schepsi solidly directs the film and has wisely cast the central roles with actors who have enough presence and talent to make these characters more credible on the screen than from the written page. The preachy screenplay by Gerald Di Pego takes this interesting premise and expounds their differences ad nauseum. When the script stays true to the intellectual discourse, the film resonates. Unfortunately, it also adds some needless sub plots that go nowhere and just fill time. Some actors like Bruce Davidson and Amy Brenneman aren't given much to do and are wasted in minor roles.
But the film eventually works solely due to the chemistry of Binoche and Owens. Owen's Jack has a disheveled charm and sexiness that makes him worthy of Dina's attention. His bouts with alcohol have a chilling realism and, a speech delivered to the end of the film to his estranged son is quite moving. Binoche has a wry and expressive persona that makes her character a noble and caring rival. Her talents not only as an actress but also as an abstract painter are showcased successfully throughout the film. These actors supply the sweetness and passion that is somehow lacking in the film's creaky plot and soap opera dynamics.
￼At times, Words and Pictures tends to hyperventilate on its own words and storytelling. But one can readily accept this factor as the film tackles bigger issues and offers intellectual nourishment that mostly other films avoid. The film effectively emphasizes the importance of art and literature to us mere mortals. However it ultimately raises another philosophical question: Does music eclipse both as a more direct means of expression? Talk amongst yourselves, but go first see Words and Pictures as a hearty appetizer. GRADE: B
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It's a rare film that manages to be tedious and fascinating at the same
time, but that's precisely what happens with the clumsily-named and
executed Words And Pictures. The film's central conceit is right there
in its title: a battle for supremacy unfolds between an English teacher
(words) and his new colleague, who schools students in the fine arts
(pictures). It shouldn't work at all, especially when the relationship
moves predictably into romantic territory. But it's tough to completely
dismiss the film when its awkward screenplay also features two
intriguing central characters, played with subtle, almost miraculous
depth by Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche.
English teacher Jack Marcus (Owen) is on the brink of academic implosion: his job is on the line, he's barely making it to his classes on time, and he's drinking a little too much for anyone's comfort. But, just as things are looking really bleak, his downward trajectory is briefly interrupted by the arrival of Dina Delsanto (Binoche), a revered artist who's losing her ability to make art as her body is increasingly ravaged by the aches and pains of rheumatoid arthritis. She values imagery and art; he treasures words and literature - their clash fires up their students' imaginations, even as they bicker and spar their way into an evident mutual attraction.
There's no denying that the film rests on an awkward foundation: the script keeps returning to the ridiculous dichotomy it establishes between words and pictures, pitting Marcus against Delsanto in a competition that makes very little sense. It's all tied up with a subplot involving shy arts student Emily (Valerie Tian), whose ability to come out of her shell to be the artist she can be is all wrapped up with issues of sexual harassment and public humiliation. Frankly, it's just not very good.
What is very good about the film is its two central characters, and the spiky, difficult and joyfully equal relationship that springs up between them. There's so much depth, sadness and maturity layered into Marcus and Delsanto that it's absolutely fascinating just to watch them in action, together and apart. Both characters have rough edges that aren't sanded away, and the odd fireworks between them work precisely because both their lives have stalled: Marcus is a charming mess who lost himself somewhere along the way; Delsanto is a brilliant artist who can no longer express herself the way she wants to. Somehow, they wind up inspiring each other to do better and be better - and, instead of feeling horribly mawkish, it works.
That's due in no small part to the excellent work done by the two lead actors. Owen sinks thoroughly into the part of Marcus, dialling up the charm and the horror of his character in equal measure. The film doesn't soften or romanticise Marcus and his problems, which gives Owen plenty of great character stuff to do. Binoche, too, has ample room to uncover the sad, yearning soul of a whip-smart, independent woman whose illness has stolen not just her art but also a little of her dignity.
Ultimately, the fantastic and fascinating interplay between the two actors and characters are pretty much worth the price of admission. They're surrounded by an odd, awkward beast of a movie, built on a very shaky foundation. But their brave, deep performances and bittersweet chemistry come very close to making Words And Pictures worth a lot more than it really is.
There's great magic in Words and Pictures. And that magic comes from the sheer joy of watching a real human story so eloquently played out before our eyes. In a time when we are bombarded by CGI laden, tent pole films crafted by marketing firms rather than great storytellers, it is refreshing to find a summer film that focuses on character and the human condition. I loved this film and the emotional journey it takes us on. Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche are both at the top of their game in this film, giving us layered performances that are humorous, touching and yes I'll use the word again human. The greatest strength of this film is it's screenplay with it's honest look at relationships. The relationship between words and pictures becomes the vehicle by which we dive into all the emotional relationships. These are flawed and delicate characters making their way through the minefield of life. Fathers and sons, lovers, coworkers, mentors and mentees. All of the relationships play out so beautifully and honestly on screen. From our wonderful leads to even the smallest of supporting characters, not an emotive moment is wasted. Thank God there are films where great writing is still revered and producers, directors and actors who take a chance with those words and bring them to the screen in glorious moving pictures. Don't miss this one!
I almost opted out of seeing Words and Pictures but I'm very happy that I saw it. The movie is about a high school English teacher who was once an acclaimed publisher but lost his creativity because he thinks it's not appreciated by his students and drowns his sorrows in alcohol. He is played by Clive Owen who performed brilliantly. He intersects with a new world renowned Art teacher played by Juliette Binoche who is struggling to maintain her ability to create due to a debilitating medical condition which physically prevented her from painting with fine strokes. Juliette Binoche transforms amazingly and performs well. I didn't even recognize her as the actress that played Vianne in Chocolat which I loved her in and Hana the nurse in The English Patient. In their dual over their passions of words and pictures, they end up challenging each other and their students and movie goers alike to appreciate and desire to create beauty using words and art. After watching Belle and a slew of other movies set around Victorian Era England, I noted that our conversational language has become so simple when there are so many beautiful words available to us. This movie echoes that sentiment. I expected Words and Pictures to be an overly artsy romantic love story but it was balanced. There are two things I didn't like about this movie. The first is that we aren't given the back story of the main characters. The characters even acknowledge they don't know a lot about each other but they are satisfied with it and I guess movie goers were supposed to be OK with it as well. The second is that besides reciting other people's words, Clive Owen's character doesn't say much of his own words that conveys his whole premise about words. I kept waiting for this great prose from him, but never got it. Overall the movie is entertaining and inspiring and I recommend you go see it.
Words and Pictures (2013) was directed by Fred Schepisi. It stars
Juliette Binoche as Dina Delsanto, a brilliant painter who is suffering
from rheumatoid arthritis. Clive Owen portrays Jack Marcus, a published
poet who is suffering from alcoholism. Of course they meet, engage in
intellectual battles, are attracted to each, and have a horrendous
rending of their relationship.
All of this action takes place at a private school in New England, with subplots involving cyber bullying, the real possibility of Jack being fired from his job, Jack's relationship with his son, and both teachers' interactions with their students.
The film is predictable and formulaic, but it still worked for me because of the brilliant acting of Juliette Binoche. We've seen painters at work in other films, but in this movie, there's a real artist at work. (Binoche is, herself, an artist, and the art she's making in the film is her own art.) Most important to me is that we get to see the serious effects of rheumatoid arthritis on someone's life. Most sick people are portrayed in movies as either at death's door, or just mildly impaired. (If they have rheumatoid arthritis, they use a cane and limp a little.) Not so in this film--Binoche has a serious handicapping condition, and it's interfering with her life and her art.
This movie will work better on the large screen, mainly because the art will be more impressive if seen in a theater. Even so, it will work well enough on the small screen. It's worth seeing, Not a great film, but an intelligent and enjoyable one.
This is an honest movie that could be classified as a romantic comedy,
but offers something more cerebral than that.
Through its main protagonist, the witty but self-destructive Jack (who plays tennis in his lounge room when drunk) we see a glimpse of the kind of inspirational teacher from Dead Poets Society recast in the information age where students can answer any question by referring to their electronic devices, while never understanding the worth of the question in the first place.
Don't let the love story fool you into thinking this is a chick flick. It's about appreciating the creation and expression of new ideas, neatly summed-up in the title: Words & Pictures.
This movie pleasantly surprised me with its clever dialogue and wordplay, despite the boy-meets-girl, etc storyline. Well worth a look.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For most of the 1 1/2 hours of this film I couldn't stand it. Then the story starts concentrating on the two main characters and it becomes worthwhile. By now you get the general picture-two teachers in a New England prep school (Located somewhere in British Columbia) find it worthwhile to set up a school-wide competition between spoken word and visual art, and that tension sparks a surge of creativity in the school and a relationship between the two teachers. Unfortunately, even with two good actors in the lead roles, things don't really start to happen until the film is about 2/3 over, when the art teacher. played by Juliette Binoche, reveals a new painting, an abstract, that blows away the competition. But getting to that point requires a slog through overstated, unbelievable interactions between teacher and student and student-student. Example: the best art student, an Asian-American girl, is constantly hassled by a privileged, tone-deaf young man who makes a complete ass of himself essentially stalking her on campus every day, and at the top of his lungs. The young woman is shy and lacks self-confidence, but skilled enough to draw the attention of the art teacher. Her tormentor is obnoxious enough to be spotted from a police helicopter, and yet never seems to come to the attention of the faculty or administration until he does something truly unforgivable. By the same token, the Asian-American artist, supposedly shy and un-self-confident, is quite able to tell him off loudly and in public more than once during the film. The unconvincing subplots kept the whole film at arm's length for me until the two main characters started to click.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Yes, Words and Pictures includes many of the clichés that typically
populate both romance films and movies in which the lead characters are
teachers, however such clichés do not necessarily render a film
ineffective if the broader context of the story allows us to look
beyond the obvious and appreciate what else is going on. In that
regard, veteran Australian director Fred Schepisi has done a really
good job in crafting a film that has many easily identifiable genre
conventions, yet still has plenty to say on all manner of subject
matter, including art, language, technology and the purpose of
education. With accomplished performers such as Clive Owen and Juliette
Binoche in the lead roles, this is a film that defies its rom-com
leanings and becomes something much more intelligent. The narrative
trajectory of the characters is most definitely predictable, but
because we already know what is going to happen on that front, we can
focus on other elements of the story, including questions raised about
the value of words and images and notions of what defines a good
Shot in Vancouver but set in a New England prep school, Words and Pictures is the story of two teachers with oppositional personalities and approaches to teaching who engage in a battle of wits that, inevitably, leads to romance. Binoche is new-teacher-in-town Dina Delsanto, an acclaimed artist battling rheumatoid arthritis, while Owen's Jack Marcus is the popular (with the students at least) English teacher with a drinking problem and a passion for language. Whilst the two present as polar opposites with regard to their teaching styles, they both have very high expectations of their students. Dina refuses to accept that a work of art being deemed " very good" by the masses is a satisfactory achievement and she demands that her students aim higher than that, particularly the talented Emily (Valerie Tian). Jack, meanwhile, is less interested in allocating formal grades than he is in inspiring students to use language in intelligent and creative ways to understand and appreciate the power and influence of words. The problem for Jack is that the school is losing patience with his unorthodox approach and his job is under threat; drunken run-ins around town doing little to curry favour with the school administration.
Of course, the school board are more interested in image and reputation than they are student outcomes, so Jack sets out to convince the powers-that-be of his "worth" to the school, a value that has little to do with his ability as a teacher and more to do with restoring his tarnished reputation as a writer of some repute. Needless to say, Jack finds himself drawn to the reclusive Dina, who is struggling to come to terms with the impact her illness is having on her ability to paint. Whilst the two central characters are typical of all screen teachers from Gabe Kotter to Erin Gruwell in that they apparently only have one class, there is some honesty in the way they and the other teachers (which include Bruce Davison as Walt, Jack's only ally) are presented. The film explores what constitutes a good teacher: Does it matter if Jack is an alcoholic? Is being a nice person a requirement for being a good teacher? Does being a popular teacher make you any more, or less, effective in the classroom? Words and Pictures also serves as a celebration of both the visual and language arts and explores the influence of technology on young people, with Jack's witty and impassioned rants bemoaning social media proving particularly amusing.
Owen embodies Jack as a blowhard fighting a losing battle against both the system and his own self-loathing, while Dina has little desire to ingratiate herself with her students or other faculty members. The chemistry between Owen and Binoche is terrific and, despite the somewhat cantankerous personalities of their characters, these are two teachers that any school would be lucky to have. With several subplots thrown into the mix, such as Jack's strained relationship with his son Tony (Christian Scheider, son of Roy, in his screen debut) and the cruel harassment directed at Emily by a boorish male student, there is enough going on to make Words and Pictures a cut above the warm and fuzzy fluff that saturates so many romance narratives. Yes, of course it ends pretty much how we expect, but with good performances and characters that are multi-layered, Schepisi has managed to create a genre piece that, unlike so many others, is both entertaining and intelligent.
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