What’s worth more? Words or pictures? This debate entangles itself in and adds a twist to the common love story as seen in the movie “Words and Pictures.”
It features Clive Owen as Jack Marcus, a witty yet arrogant English Honors teacher who has a very apparent drinking addiction. As a former accomplished poet, Marcus aims to inspire his disinterested high school students to appreciate the beauty of language in contrast to their technology driven lives.
When the school hires well-known artist Dina Delsanto, played by Juliette Binoche, as the new Art Honors teacher, Marcus attempts to evoke a heated argument revolving on whether words or pictures are more important. Despite Marcus’ attempts to charm her through this debate, Delsanto brushes him off and gets the image that he is insane. As a result, this only pushes Marcus to follow her more closely in a not-so-cute more annoying type of fashion.
This so-called “war” between literature and art becomes a bit over-emphasized through parts of the film which makes it seem tacky and pointless. The pride carried with making this a high-end intellectual debate does not last and instead creates an unlikely mix between love and learning. The intellectual duel is also interjected by various muddled subplots, such as Marcus’ problems with his son and alcohol, Delsanto’s rheumatoid arthritis, the harassment of an art student and the attraction between Marcus and Delsanto. Instead of keeping the viewer engaged, these subplots just add confusion and unnecessary, undeveloped additions to the main storyline.
This uncommon love story has its ups and downs; just when the audience thinks that Delsanto and Marcus are going to live happily ever after, the exact opposite happens. However, when the movie comes to a close, it becomes all happy-go-lucky again. The jumps from the words vs. pictures debate to the private lives of two high school teachers differentiate it from the normal love and lust type of film and puts it more into the reality TV type of category.
Aside from the seemingly meaningless battles between Delsanto and Marcus, the movie has a clever vitality to it. The exchange of comebacks and literary dialogue between them reveals the obvious connection and fuels the overall acuteness of the plot. However, all battles do come to their resolution. As for this one, the end leaves the viewer feeling empty. Instead of the intense argument and final answer that the viewer expects, the movie resolves into a “tie” with the acceptance of both forms of art and no winner or loser.
This film is not for those seeking a mushy gushy love story or a humorous comedy, but rather for those who just want to ponder the importance of words and pictures. It provokes somewhat deep wonder and adds insight into the simple state of an inane dispute.