Words and Pictures: romantic comedy. The movie takes place at a New England prep school. Clive Owen, as the English teacher Jack Marcus, is the “words” and Juliette Binoche, as the art teacher Dina Delsanto, is the “pictures”. Jack declares war in his classroom over the issue as to which is more important, words or pictures. Jack is a published poet who has lost his spark and now has a problem with alcohol. He has been teaching at the prep school for a few years but due to his drinking, his job is in jeopardy despite being quite popular with students. Delsanto is an attractive new teacher ailing from rheumatoid arthritis. The obvious analogy as these two pair off is the Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn romantic comedy, but for this genre to work, the lead actors need a certain chemistry and crisp dialogue exchanges. This script by Gerald DiPego, succeeds. Owen and Binoche are excellent actors and the personalities they project at the beginning of the film makes you wonder how they will connect.
Jack’s denial of his drinking issue is realistic but the film, directed by Fred Schepisi, has too many subplots and could have been more tightly edited. Jack is divorced and has a college age son but their relationship is undeveloped. We never see the former wife but we see cutaway scenes with a female school trustee. There is also a storyline with a male student (Adam DiMarco) harassing a female student (Valerie Tian) that seems misplaced. The 116 minute film provides a number of themes but is at its best when the interaction directly involves Jack and Delsanto. The elimination of at least one of its subplots would have made for a more enjoyable movie. Ultimately, this is one of those films where the parts are better than the whole but there’s enough entertainment that you’ll be pleased with having spent the time.
Steven Guttman, Esq.