Tuesday, 3 November 2015
Words and Pictures at the IMDb
Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche star as rival teachers trying to prove which of words (language) or pictures (art) is best. If that sounds a bit of a pointless endeavour you’ll not be surprised to learn that the film is too.
Owen plays Jack, that tired old cliché of a character of the great writer who hasn’t written anything worthwhile in years who takes a teaching job to finance his creeping alcoholism. Binoche plays a totally different character, a great painter who hasn’t painted anything worthwhile for years due to her creeping arthritis who takes on a teaching job.
The pair teach at a school for precocious teenagers who can’t act. Clive’s lessons are like something out of ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ with the kids all admiring and fancying him in equal measure despite his contempt for the job and his fat and unshaven appearance. Binoche limps when she remembers to do so and has a stick, but a steely determination to help her pupils - they’re the original odd couple!
Owen takes a shine to Juliette and soon engages her in his tiresome ‘how many syllables’ game to which she rightly tells him to piss off. Owen isn’t discouraged however and tries to woo the stuffy artist while juggling with a career crisis and a distant son who is embarrassed about pissed old Dad.
During one of Owen’s unstructured classes a debate arises over the phrase ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ to which he argues that words can supply the details and emotion that a picture cannot. When Binoche’s art class hear of this they are outraged; surely a good picture can convey a lot more than pages of a book? This not very interesting argument captivates the school and a big showdown is planned for the end of the term/film.
Meanwhile Owen is up for dismissal for being pissed all the time and for not offering the school any published works to raise their profile. He wisely chooses to steal his son’s best poem for himself and sets off to get drunk to celebrate. Elsewhere Binoche is trying out new ways to make a mess by dropping paint onto canvas using different methods.
For reasons not clear Owen manages to get Binoche into bed before spoiling it all by getting drunk and wrecking her new ‘masterpiece’ a big red and blue splodge that frankly looked better once Clive had his way with it.
With his career and relationships all pissed against a wall Clive decides to try Alcoholics Anonymous and start afresh with Binoche and his son. But will it be too little too late and with the ‘Words and Pictures’ showdown coming up can he win the day for words? C’mon words!
The premise of this film was a bit like the Hugh Grant vehicle ‘Music and Lyrics’ and when I say Grant’s film was more enjoyable you’ll understand what a clunker ‘Words and Pictures’ is.
The main issue is the central relationship which has no spark whatsoever. Binoche, lovely as she is, cannot act while speaking English and Clive Owen didn’t seem to believe in either his wooing or his madcap fervour for words over pictures. You are probably thinking ‘can’t we have both?’ - well don’t as that will spoil the ending!
Some of the arguments were quite interesting but they were articulated by some of the worst teen actors you will ever see and they look like winners of an essay writing contest reading their work on screen. There is a lamentable subplot about an Asian girl with self worth issues but that was ghastly and predictably resolved. Don’t even ask about Owen’s woes with his prissy son - awful!
So what we have is a no rom, rom-com with no com either. You’d think in a high school there would be some chemistry - I blame the cuts.
Words and pictures? If they are presented like this I’ll have neither please!
Best Bit _ Owen does some redecorating.
‘W’ Rating 7/23