Words and Pictures Blu-ray Review
Romantic comedies are a difficult genre. On the one hand I usually am completely engrossed by the romance between the characters. On the other hand, though, they usually follow the same premise and general story structure – so much so that you can see what is going to happen within the first 15 minutes of the film. Many folks find this kind of structure soothing and I suppose I am the same way, getting drawn into the trailer WORDS WITH FRIENDS, starring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche and really hoping for a good take on a sometimes tired genre.
English Literature professor Jack Marcus was an accomplished writer when he came to teach at one of the best prep schools in the country but he’s lost his way. Now a drunk who hasn’t been able to publish anything in years, Marcus has lost his way as a teacher and is close to losing his job (the one thing he cares about) when famous painter-turned-teacher Dina Delsanto comes to teach at his school. Marcus is initially playfully caustic with Delsanto, teasing her about the power of words and its greater meaning to the world than that of art. But when Delsanto takes the affront to her chosen craft personally, our duo find themselves sparring not only with each other but also with their own inner demons as they both struggle to find a human connection in our disconnected world.
The story of WORDS AND PICTURES sounds intriguing, perhaps even fun, on paper. The biggest problem, though, is the movie just spends too much time preaching about the state of our culture and our disconnected youth while claiming we should then champion an English teacher who, no longer able to connect to youth in the smartphone age, also happens to be a barely functioning alcoholic who drinks during his lunch break at school. Our other hero(ine) is an artist who barely shows a smile or sensitivity outside of her few scenes with Marcus. The end result is a movie that isn’t any fun and is sometimes difficult to watch, despite the obvious chemistry between Owen and Binoche.
The script doesn’t do them many favors either; though I appreciate what WORDS AND PICTURES screenwriter attempted in 1) giving the leads both real-life flaws and problems and 2) NOT giving them caricature-ish non-people for their other relationships. But for every moment of sweetness and romance there are several scenes of the characters doing blatantly unlikeable things. Watch the English teacher get drunk and disappoint his son on the phone. Watch the artist treat her family like garbage as they try to care for her. Watch both professors rib their students, then abuse them, and never quite turn it around though they both are supposedly ‘liked’ by the end of the movie.
WORDS AND PICTURES is the worst type of romantic comedy to me, the misleading kind; we’re presented with a movie that looks authentically sweet about two teachers who love their craft and fight each other as they fall in love (I know, the simple version sounds like every movie ever made)… but the final film instead looks more like a psychology experiment on the audience. If we pretend two people just need to find love and they’ll become the best teachers they can be (and the best people) without ever having either of them atone for their actions? If you want to know the answer to this and you have almost two hours to burn, go ahead and check out WORDS AND PICTURES… I suggest avoiding it.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.39:1) The video transfer of WORDS AND PICTURES is clean and understated.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio for WORDS AND PICTURES is beautifully presented and mixed to great effect for the dialogue in the film.
Audio Commentary with director Fred Schepisi The director of WORDS AND PICTURES tonally matches the final film which makes for a long slog for anyone who isn’t incredibly interested in Schepisi’s love of his work. He does give an exhaustive discussion with lots of detail but the commentary was so boring, with frequent pauses of questionable length), I had to listen to it over three nights in chunks to get through the whole thing (or else I would fall asleep).
Behind the Scenes of WORDS AND PICTURES (17:46) A pretty standard feature on most Blu-ray packages, they really did a nice job with this one. They weave together a great discussion on the movie I think we all wished they had made instead of the plodding, slow WORDS AND PICTURES.
WORDS AND PICTURES also features the theatrical trailer (02:32) for the film and the package comes with an UltraViolent Digital HD Digital Copy.