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'Words and Pictures' review: Clever romance suffers drunken plot

Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche at a premiere of "Words and Pictures."
Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche at a premiere of "Words and Pictures."
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Words and Pictures


He’s suave. She’s charming. Together, Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche could create a romance drama made in Heaven. Unfortunately, their flirtatious chemistry in “Words and Pictures” is interrupted by his character’s drunkenness which floods the storyline with a toxic, sour odor.

A long-standing English teacher, Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) has worn out the appeal of being a published writer with his abrasive, competitive banter and drunken shenanigans. His job is on the line, but he is reinvigorated by the arrival of the new Advanced Art course teacher, Ms. Delsanto (Juliette Binoche). A duel is arranged to argue which has more power: words or pictures. The playful rivalry strengthens the flirtations between the two. Marcus’ irresponsible drinking and Delsanto’s rheumatoid arthritis add to the challenge, though, as they prevent each character from being their best.

The beginning of “Words and Pictures” is exactly what fans of the actors would hope for; Owen’s rowdy charm and Binoche’s dominating elegance contrast but complement to create delightful characters and adorable interaction. However, as Marcus’ addiction spirals out of control, the character becomes a persistent wolf, a real scoundrel. His actions are so insensitive that he becomes truly deplorable.

Awkward similarities appear between Marcus and a bullying teenage boy (Adam DiMarco) aggressively and rudely pursuing a fellow classmate (Valerie Tian), but the comparison is likely unintentional. Though the boy’s behavior is deemed despicable and worthy of punishment, Marcus actively pursues Delsanto and is expressly forward with his intentions, as well. His intentions aren’t mean-spirited, so is that what makes his advances permissible as an adult? He behaves as a lion to Delsanto’s frail, desperate lamb and does not feel the weight of consequences.

The theme of art versus language is an intriguing subject that glosses over any real discussion by the end. Instead, the film highlights the Hollywood romance and the idea that everyone’s a winner. The ending is too safe for the intelligent rivalry with which “Words and Pictures” begins.

Rating for “Words and Pictures:” C-

For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.

“Words and Pictures” is only playing at two theatres in Columbus: AMC Lennox and Drexel. For showtimes, click here.