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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Words and Pictures | Juliette Binoche, Clive Owen | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Words and Pictures | Juliette Binoche, Clive Owen | Review

If you’re old enough to remember when pre-cable television offered made-for-TV movies you’ll recognize some of those earmarks in Words and Pictures.  Predictable, lightweight story, syrupy soundtrack, manufactured melodrama, romantic angst - it’s all there in 116 minutes of mediocrity.  It’s also preachy and full of pseudo-profound speeches that annoy more than enlighten.

An alcoholic English teacher and former renowned author (Clive Owen) challenges an icy, accomplished art teacher afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis (Juliette Binoche) to a war between the titular creative concepts.  Which will win?  Students at Maine’s elite Croyden Prep Academy must choose sides and create a persuasive presentation.

Along the way, a rocky romance develops between the teachers, with side plots that touch upon sexual harassment, plagiarism, and father/son estrangement.  Even with the inclusion of those “important” subjects, there’s little to get excited about.

Owen and Binoche are formidable actors in a trivial story, as wasted as Owen’s character Jack is on vodka most of the time.  Binoche’s Dina walks with a cane and paints with a mop.  Her paintings are abstract but her bitterness is not.  

The requisite romance between these two is unlikely and unbelievable, with little chemistry between the stars – a shame, because both are fiery in their creative assertions.  Both are capable of so much more.

Director Fred Schepisi (The Devil’s Playground) with an uneven script by Gerald DiPego (Angel Eyes) creates a cliché-ridden academic world in which one character actually spouts, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” as if they had invented the saying.  Great argument.  Great, overused, clichéd argument.

What is original is the fact that Binoche herself created all of the paintings attributed to her character, Dina.  Owen’s Jack merely quotes some great writers to make his point, but his words evaporate into thin air.  Paint on canvas is permanent.  Does that mean that pictures win the war?

You’ll hardly be on the edge of your seat to find out.  A physical confrontation with paintballs and scrabble tiles would have been more enjoyable.

In this case, both the words and the pictures disappoint.


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