Foreplay With Words
Words and Pictures
Stars: Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche, Bruce Davison, Keegan Connor, Amy Brenneman, Adam DiMarco, Valerie Tian, Navid Negehban, Janet Kidder and David Lewis
Director: Fred Schepisi
Scriptwriter: Gerald DiPego
Composer: Paul Grabowsky
Cinematography: Ian Baker
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 111 minutes
So you thought Clive Owen was an action actor? Think again. In this romantic comedy, he reads poetry the way it should be read (don't pause at the end of each line), shows his acting abilities as romantic and a bit of a heel. Juliette Binoche is his opposite, full of principle and using art (in particular, painting) as her mode of teaching and expression. This is a movie, so they fall for each other, but she won't admit it, he being a heel and all. Also, Juliette has a physical affliction, which is an impediment to her, and one she mentally has to overcome. Thus is the story line that is mirrored between two adults and two students, Swint, the bully (Adam DiMarco) attracted to Emily the bright student (Valerie Tian) and he lives to taunt others. Each group has a lesson to learn.
The story begins with Jack (Owen) as an English teacher with unconventional methods. Also, he has a drinking problem which is beginning to be noticed. His friend, Walt (Bruce Davison) tries to cover for him but it isn't always successful. Enter the new Honors Art Teacher, Dina (Binoche) who prods her students in her classroom, but has a warm spot, too. Jack begins to tease Dina, but she strikes back, and each seems to like this. Not so when Swint teases Emily, and it becomes harsh when he is frustrated. In the mix is a contest to see what art medium teaches best---words or pictures. Students work hard and teachers begin to know each other better. Just when things are going good, adversity comes calling and you see how each person handles it. I have to see the film visually in order to write the review.
“Words and Pictures” is many things. A romantic comedy/love story between opposites, people trying to overcome afflictions and family estrangements, students dealing with bullies, and the love of one’s mode of expression, be it the written word or paint on a canvas. We see Jack at his keyboard trying to find the right words for a poem, while Dina straps herself to a rolling stool with an enormous paintbrush to roll over a canvas for the best color effect. The bully isn't interested in art at all, except as a way to meet girls, while other young art students are starting to recognize their talent for a particular medium and that others appreciate what they have to give. Jack’s place is a mess, but he can write there, while Juliette’s view is on a lake and she can paint there. To each, his own. “Words and Pictures” does just that, tells a story with both.
Clive Owen, as Jack, can look as though he would be angry at any minute, but then gives a kind comment. His character keeps you guessing. The camera loves Juliette and her facial expressions work well with her feelings here, from friendship to anger. Valerie Tian, as the picked-on student, goes from being frightened to calm, also with good facial expression, as does Adam DiMarco, who is the bully, and doesn't take “no” for an answer. Their faces are the canvas on which the director works, and Fred Schepisi does well here.
People will recognize themselves in this film. Are you the one who does best with descriptive words? Are you the one who would rather show a picture then carry on a conversation? Is your camera your best friend? Is your notebook/tablet your best friend? Where are you in this mix? You can tell where I am. I'm the one writing the review. Enjoy.
Copyright 2014 Marie Asner
For more romantic comedy film reviews see the following:
The Time Travelers Wife