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Five Views: Words and Pictures

July 4, 2014

Words and Pictures Poster

Words and Pictures – A D Films Release
Release Date: July 4th, 2014 (Limited)
Rated PG for mature themes and language
Running time: 116 minutes

Fred Schepisi (dir.)

Gerald Di Pego (writer)

Paul Grabowsky (music)

Clive Owen as Jack Marcus
Juliette Binoche as Dina Delsanto
Valerie Tian as Emily
Navid Negahban as Rashid
Bruce Davison as Walt
Adam DiMarco as Swint
Josh Ssettuba as Cole Patterson
Christian Scheider as Tony


©D Films. All Rights Reserved.
Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) and Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche) in Words and Pictures.

Our reviews below:


Words and Pictures Review By John Corrado

**1/2 (out of 4)

Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) is a high school english teacher at risk of being fired, and Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche) is an acclaimed painter who has just been hired to teach art to the same group of students.  The two immediately start bickering and it’s not long before they declare a friendly competition between their classes, trying to prove once and for all which form of art is more valid, hence the Words and Pictures of the title.

This is an engaging debate to have and one that I can appreciate from either side, as both a writer and admirer of the visual arts.  It’s just too bad that the film itself never really rises to the level of the art being discussed at the centre of the story.  With the overly bright aesthetic of a TV movie, Words and Pictures feels overlong at a bloated 116 minutes.  The screenplay is sometimes overly clichéd, with side characters and subplots that seem to drop in and out of the story, including melodramatic plot points involving Jack’s alcoholism and his estranged adult son, and Dina’s struggles with debilitating arthritis.

But Clive Owen and Juliette Binoch deliver a pair of good performances, and there are some nicely written scenes in the classroom, as both characters are allowed to make some interesting points.  Although not high art, Words and Pictures is at its best and most entertaining when celebrating the importance of both forms of artistic expression.


Words and Pictures Review By Erin V.

**1/2 (out of 4)

Words and Pictures is an indie film that premiered at TIFF last year.  It centres around two prep school teachers – Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) and Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche).  Marcus is the Honors English teacher and Delsanto is the Honors Fine Art teacher.  When they start a friendly rivalry at the school between which are more expressive, words or pictures, they engage the students and start to embrace each others ways of thinking.

The film delves into a romantic plot line between the two teachers, and also falls into cliché at times.  Tapping into issues like disability, drinking problems, estranged children, bullying tied to racial issues, Words and Pictures seems to have a bit of everything, but not enough of anything.  Even the focus on the central premise could have been explored further in my book.

Overall though, if you are looking for a slightly TV/Hallmark style of film, Words and Pictures is not a bad choice at all.  The acting is fine, it is filmed well enough for this style, and while a little long at close to two hours it moves along fairly quickly even if it could have been a good twenty minutes shorter.


Words and Pictures Review By Nicole

*** (out of 4)

Which is more of an art form; words or pictures?  Two rival high school teachers try to tackle this question in Words and Pictures, a rom-com focused on the competitive art world.  Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) is a struggling alcoholic high school english teacher.  He is frustrated by his student’s apathy and lack of enthusiasm for decent, poetic and expressive language, something he blames on the Internet age.

One day, fine art teacher Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche), who thinks visual art is more expressive than writing, comes on the scene and challenges Jack’s opposite idea.  A friendly rivalry between them occurs, challenging each other to a student run Words vs. Pictures competition.  But when Emily (Valerie Tian), a shy art student gets bullied by fellow student Swint (Adam Di Marco), who draws a rude picture of her, the teachers must work together to keep things peaceful in school.

Words and Pictures is a very good movie.  Along with its anti-bullying message, it also explores topics of alcoholism, physical handicaps, (Dina has rheumatoid arthritis), love and ultimately the arts.  As both a writer and visual artist, I found the Words vs. Pictures debate fascinating, and it turns out one is equally important as the other.  Words and Pictures is a good movie for high school art or writing classes, and any form of artist aged 14 to adult.


Words and Pictures Review By Maureen

**1/2 (out of 4)

The arts.  To some that brings to mind beautifully written passages of poetry, to others an evocative painting.  But is one more of an art from than the other?  That’s the basic premise of director Fred Schepisi’s romantic dramedy, Words and Pictures.

Jack “Mr. Mark” Marcus (Clive Owen) is an English teacher at a prestigious prep school.  Hired because of his experience as a published author, Mr. Mark – as his students call him – is frustrated that his texting and Tweeting students don’t seem to share his love of the written word.  Known around the staff lounge for his annoying habit of playing a verbal alphabet and syllables word game, Jack Marcus meets his match when a well known abstract artist, Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche), is brought in to teach the honours arts class.

When Jack’s teaching position is in jeopardy, thanks in part to his drinking problem, he decides to prove his worth as an honours level English teacher by getting his students involved in a friendly competition with the arts students to enthusiastically prove that words express more than pictures.  But the project becomes more complex when Jack becomes romantically involved with Dina.

It’s the chemistry between Jack and Dina that makes Words and Pictures so watchable.  Each is a gifted artist in their own way, yet both are flawed and vulnerable.  Jack’s dependance on alcohol interferes with his personal relationships and his love of word play is both charming and annoying.  Dina has physical challenges due to debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and her frustration with her physical limitations leave her bitter and short tempered.  Jack and Dina bring out the best and worst in each other.

Although a little long at 116 minutes, Words and Pictures is charming and believable, and worth sitting through some of the scenes that drag.  Clive Own and Juliette Binoche give good performances that are worth seeing.  The overall debate about whether words are better than pictures gets resolved nicely and does get the viewer thinking about what constitutes artistic expression.

Those interested in the arts in general and those looking for a low-key romantic dramedy might want to check out Words and Pictures as a nice change of pace from summer blockbusters.


Words and Pictures Review By Tony

*** (out of 4)

The debate between Words and Pictures is on with the English teacher Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) and Art teacher Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche) determined to convince their senior suburban prep school students of the superiority of their particular means of expression. Jack is a long divorced alcoholic with his job on the line. He never plans lessons and rarely grades assignments (as a retired teacher I can relate) but in a classroom where everyone carries a mobile device linked to the smart whiteboard he relentlessly challenges the students to appreciate the language and write with inspiration, such as replacing tweets with haiku.

Following a successful New York career as an abstract artist Delsanto has just moved into a nearby rural studio. Now living with rheumatoid arthritis, she uses a cane and struggles to keep painting with the aid of gadgets such as wrist straps to help hold the brushes. She is very demanding of her students, particularly the Asian Emily (Valerie Tian) in whom she sees real potential.

As part of the “War” between language and visual art, students are inspired to submit their best work to the school’s annual literary (and now illustrated) publication founded by Jack. The stakes get higher when Emily is bullied on line and the person responsible has to be identified. Somewhat predictably, Jack and Dina find all their good-natured rivalry a real inspiration to enjoy life together more deeply. However, Jack suffers a setback that threatens everything he stands for.

Both in their seventies, the American writer Gerald Di Pego and Australian-born director Fred Schepisi have created a mature and literate film that with any other cast might have been considered precious and stagey. What makes Words and Pictures really work is the two principal actors who share an enthusiasm and chemistry that in Schepisi’s words “crackles” and proved to be an inspiration to the young cast of students in their midst. Finally, I really enjoyed the background score from Paul Grabowsky, a nice suite of chamber music interrupted at one crucial point by a Bowie tune that Owen correctly insisted was appropriate to a scene of alcoholic rage.

Consensus: Although Words and Pictures feels a little long at 116 minutes and the story is sometimes melodramatic, the film boasts solid performances from Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, and offers some nicely written discussions of art. **3/4 (out of 4)

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