Words and Pictures is an entertaining dramedy that succeeds, but just barely. It is diverting but not entirely memorable, and though it is not particularly daring it is earnest in its love of art, both visual and the written word. It also has two charmingly endearing performances from its lead actors. Without the presence of Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche it would have been middling at best.
Owen plays Jack Marcus, an English teacher at a posh prep school in Maine. A published poet, but now an alcoholic and suffering a years long creative drought, Jack risks losing his job at an upcoming review, as well as his school's beloved literary magazine to budget cuts. Jack still loves teaching and tries to inspire his students to create art in a world of 160 word tweets. Into the world of the school comes Dina Delsanto (Binoche), a famous artist whose debilitating arthritis has made painting almost impossible. They immediately begin sparring over the value of their respective chosen media, and soon they have their students in on the so-called war. To encourage his students and save his job, Jack organizes a competition to decide which is the more expressive form: painting or writing.
That these two initially antagonistic characters end up falling in love is only a spoiler if you've never seen a movie ever. Predictable is not always a bad thing, particularly when the people involved in said romance are so likeable, despite their many flaws. The movie doesn't downplay Jack's alcoholism, and there are some painful moments, particularly in his dealings with his estranged son (Christian Scheider). Dina is also badly damaged, and her bitterness imbues everything she does. It's a tribute to both actors' charisma that they never lose the audience even at their worst.
Fred Schepisi has made a career of making adequate to good romantic comedies, and this is another fine, competent entry in his filmography. There is nothing extraordinary about the film, but it is never boring, and there are more than a few moments of real poignancy. There's nothing to complain about here, and that's more than can be said for a lot of movies these days.