It’s always fun to watch old pros glide through the twists and turns of a cleverly written script; that makes this bit of intellectual froth not only a prime example of “romantic comedy” but also an opportunity as well to indulge in some insightful observations on the importance of well-crafted language and powerful artistic images.
Veteran director Fred Schepisi’s career has given us movies as diverse as 6 Degrees of Separation, Roxanne and Barbarosa, his sly discourse on myth-making. The 75 year-old Aussie works here from a script by Gerald De Pego, still going strong in his 7th decade with this, the 38th screenplay of his career.
The two of them conspire with Clive Owen, (Duplicity, TheInternational, Children of Men) and Juliette Binoche (The English Patient, Chocolat, Caché) whose 130 combined screen performances must be close to a record for actors still in their mid-40’s. Given all this experience in front and behind the camera, audiences have a right to expect something delightful -and this talented quartet doesn’t disappoint.
Owen plays Jack Marcus, a cocky, honors-English teacher at an unnamed New England prep school whose job is jeopardized by a major drinking problem that he refuses to acknowledge. Anxious to save his job and the school’s literary journal that he helped establish, Jack challenges Dina Delsanto (Binoche) the school’s newly arrived arts professor, to an intermural contest to determine whether great literature is more important than the images created by superior artists.
Despite initially loathing Jack, Dina finds herself drawn to his verbal wit and unabashed adoration. But booze and Jack’s unwillingness to confront his self-destructive insobriety threaten to destroy any chance their budding romance might have of getting airborne before the ax falls on his job…</p>
Words and Pictures doesn’t break any thematic ground, but De Pego’s script is full of sharp observations and its stars match their often biting way with the spoken word with healthy doses of bemused self-acceptance, so the climatic outcome of this quietly amusing tale is as satisfying as it is predictable. Everyone involved seems to have thoroughly enjoyed themselves in this verbal sparring match-and you’re likely to do so as well.
The Verdict? Amusingly pleasant riff on the arts-visual and verbal.
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