BY MIRIAM RINN
Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen are fine actors. Fred Schepisi has made films as delightful as “Roxanne” and as riveting as “A Cry in the Dark.” Gerald Di Pego has had numerous screenplays produced over the last 30 years. Yet all this talent and experience could not save their new film “Words and Pictures” from tedious mediocrity. This cliche-ridden romantic dramedy about two teachers at an exclusive prep school even manages to insult high-school students, which is not an easy task. I refuse to believe that American teenagers are as lame as the kids in this movie. If they are, we are doomed.
A rumpled, stubbled (what else?) Clive Owen plays Jack Markus, the flamboyant, charismatic English teacher at Croyden Prep. Once he was a talented, promising poet. Now, he’s an obnoxious drunk who cannot write. But he is still a terrific teacher, inspiring a multicultural bunch of rich kids to love “language” by reading them passages by John Updike and Abraham Lincoln and imploring them to revive their computer-deadened minds.. New to the school is Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche), who has gotten a position teaching Arts Honors. A well-known painter, Dina also struggles with her art due to the rheumatoid arthritis that has crippled her hands. Aloof and imperious, she was known at her last school as The Icicle, but she’s a brilliant and demanding teacher as well. What else would she be? In this film, everything follows the teacher-movie formula.