It’s fitting that the film’s title works as a bare-bones definition of what a movie even is. Words and Pictures plays like someone – say, an alien who half-watched three or four indie romances – set out to make something that barely qualifies as a motion picture. Yes, the pictures sure do move, animating a drunk prep-school English prof (Clive Owen) squaring off against a recently arrived art teacher (Juliette Binoche) over what’s more expressive: words or pictures.
Director Fred Schepisi (Six Degrees Of Separation) should have long ago been banished to blocking low-budget dinner theatre, and a script that stabs desperately at cultured wit milks its only laughs, unintentionally, from a co-worker’s (Bruce Davison) ludicrous Colonel Sanders facial hair. In keeping with the hack platitude playbook, Owen and Binoche’s quarrelling profs eventually fall for each other. Cued by a honking lite-classical score, it all feels like an adaptation of a fan script for a proposed Frasier episode.