A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Words and Pictures is a somewhat atypical romantic drama, diverging from the typical Hollywood model by focusing on some serious issues: One of the characters in the central couple is an alcoholic (he gets drunk in bars, at home alone, and even on his lunch break), and the other has a debilitating disease. What's more, not everything is resolved in the end, and there's some real fallout from the characters' choices. In addition to the strong drinking content, there's also some swearing (mostly variations on "s--t"), kissing, implied sex (though no graphic nudity), and a scene that revolves around a sketch of a naked woman.
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What's the story?
Jack (Clive Owen) is a popular high school English teacher who falls for Dina (Juliette Binoche), the new art teacher, in WORDS AND PICTURES. The set-up isn't terribly original: The two teachers initially can't understand each other because they speak different languages; Jack believes words are sacred, while Dina thinks nothing is more important than the image. As they battle to defend their positions, the two teachers become closer. But there are barriers to their romance, most notably the fact that he's a raging alcoholic, while she's struggling to deal with a serious illness.
Is it any good?
It's a shame to watch two very good actors -- Owen and Binoche -- stuck in a film that doesn't go anywhere. Words and Pictures isn't an awful movie, it's just not particularly exceptional or original. Its opposites-attract plot winds up as you'd expect it would; Jack and Dina turn to each other via a convoluted-though-still-predictable turn of events. The central conceit -- Jack and Dina's argument over the supremacy of either words or art, hence the movie's title -- requires a suspension of disbelief ... and a belief, in general, that the kids ostensibly enrolled in one of the best schools in the area are so bored that they'd be resuscitated by an oversimplified debate.
Though there's little chemistry when Jack and Dina are together, each actor is strong in their own right. No matter how lightweight the material (and how obvious the plot turns), both commit themselves fully to their roles. That's some comfort.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Words and Pictures' messages. How do they compare to what you've seen in other romance movies? Would you say there's ultimately a positive take-away?
How does the movie depict drinking and alcoholism? What are the consequences of Jack's habit? Do you think they're realistic?
- In theaters: May 23, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: September 9, 2014
- Cast: Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche, Bruce Davison
- Director: Fred Schepisi
- Studio: Roadside Attractions
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: High School
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual material including nude sketches, language and some mature thematic material
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