Film Review by Clayton Barnett
Words and Pictures
A flamboyant English teacher (Clive Owen) and a new, stoic art teacher (Juliette Binoche) collide at an upscale prep school. A high-spirited courtship begins and she finds herself enjoying the battle. Another battle they begin has the students trying to prove which is more powerful, the word or the picture. But the true war is against their own demons, as two troubled souls struggle for connection.
My mum was all over this when she saw the poster featuring Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche. Being big fans of both (especially Binoche’s recent role in Godzilla of all things) we went in with reasonable expectations. They didn’t disappoint, but the filmmakers definitely dropped the ball.
Australian director Fred Schepisi has made plenty of funny and moving films in the past, see Last Orders and Steve Martin’s Roxanne and obviously wants to make his own Dead Poets Society here. To bad he borrows a lot from that film (including directly lifting the ‘O Captain my Captain’ line) and seems to be just going through the cliches of other teacher dramas. Though he does nail the comedy with some laugh out loud moments as the two leads relish a battle of words.
It probably doesn’t help the screenplay (from the writer of Phenomenon and Message in a Bottle) is a bit scattershot and clunky, with too many storylines at the school and in the teacher’s personal lives clawing for attention. The students just don’t seem like real teenagers, and in this ‘battle’ between the art honours class and the English honours class how come we see plenty of the student’s paintings but no original written work?
But don’t let that take anything away from Owen (Children of Men) and Binoche (Chocolat). They are both just so incredibly charming with just a look and a wry smile that you can easily give the film a passing grade. They are a pleasure to watch when flirting and teasing each other, and there’s a scene about two-thirds in when Binoche opens up to Owen that is just beautiful and heart breaking.
Worth seeing if you are a fan of acting powerhouses Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, who do the best they can with the almost clichéd script they are given. They are a joy to watch.
Releases: 19th June 2014
Rating: M - Contains offensive language
Duration: 111 minutes
Starring: Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche, Keegan Connor Tracy, Amy Brenneman
Director: Fred Schepisi (The Eye Of The Storm, Fierce Creatures, Roxanne)
The paintings by 'Dina Delsanto' used in the film were all painted by Juliette Binoche.
In the scene in which Jack Marcus destroys his living room, the music in the background is David Bowie's "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" from his album The Next Day. Clive Owen insisted on using this on the soundtrack rather than the classical music that director Fred Schepisi preferred.