Monday, September 15, 2014
Words and Pictures by Fred Schepisi, 2014 (PG-13)
with Clive Owen (Shadow Dancer, Duplicity, Killer Elite), Juliette Binoche (Cosmopolis, Breaking and Entering, Chocolat, Certified Copy, Paris, Paris Je T'aime), Bruce Davison, Navid Negahban (Homeland), Amy Brenneman, Valerie Tian, Adam DiMarco, Josh Ssettuba, Janet Kidder, Christian Scheider, Keegan Connor Tracy
Prep school English teacher Jack Marcus laments his students' obsession with social media and good grades rather than engaging with the power of the written word. A one-time literary star, Jack has not published in years filling his time with drink versus the art of language. He meets his match in Dina Delsanto - a painter and new teacher on campus, who was once celebrated for her art. The two flirt and provoke each other with equal relish. Jack hatches a plan for galvanizing student interest in their studies: he declares a war between Words and Pictures, confident that the former can convey greater meaning than the latter. Dina and her art students accept the challenge between Jack and his English students, and the battle lines are drawn.
This is very cute, in the style of Dan in Real Life perhaps because of Juliette Binoche, perhaps because the movie tends to avoid romantic clichés, and create romanticism through moments that are special and unusual, mostly intimate, connected. The chemistry between the two actors works, is definitely believable (the reviews compare them to Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in Adam's Rib), so are the weaknesses of the characters. The reality in which students are now (getting As so they can get to the best college) creates the argument of the movie and the contrast and passion for the Arts, and justify some of the pedagogical detours, without becoming a didactic movie (well sometimes, it still is, but it is hard to avoid). A funny and smart romantic comedy.