Besides horror, no other kind of movie is more tied to the conventions of the genre than the romantic comedy. The “meet cute-I love you-I hate you-I love you again” formula was hammered to death by the likes of Kate Hudson, Jennifer Garner, Ashton Kutcher and Matthew McConaughey (before the McConaissance), to the point not even the target audience –too savvy for that tripe- would bother to show up.
Words and Pictures takes a deeper, most conscious approach. For starters, the leads are older and far more damaged than Hollywood’s flavor of the month. Jack (Clive Owen) and Dina (Juliette Binoche) are teachers in a phenomenally elitist art school. He was once a promising writer who got lost in the bottle and she is a gifted plastic artist whose gift has been ravaged by rheumatoid arthritis.
They are also extremists: Jack is a fanatic of the written word and believes images are the shallowest approach to reality. Dina subscribes that old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. The instructors challenge each other in ways nobody has in years. Their playful rivalry leads to romance, but soon their most damaging quirks materialize and put a damp on their budding relationship.
Directed by rom-com veteran Fred Schepisi (Roxanne), Words and Pictures falls on recognizable grooves (the horrid ending is particularly trite), but thrives when dialogue is center stage. Doesn’t hurt Owen and Binoche turn their stock characters into believable human beings. Binoche is particular is so lovely shot, one realizes her beauty is often concealed on behalf of ill-conceived realism.
Two and a half lovesick prairie dogs. Words and Pictures opens today at the RPL.