Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Words and Pictures

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:High School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG-13 for sexual material including nude sketches, language and some mature thematic material
Profanity:Strong and crude language
Nudity/Sex:Artwork and caricature featuring nudes, sexual references, some offensive
Alcohol/Drugs:Drinking and alcohol abuse
Violence/Scariness:Illness and family confrontations
Diversity Issues:Diverse characters
Movie Release Date:June 6, 2014
DVD Release Date:September 9, 2014

wordsandpicturesWhat a refreshing change to have a witty grown-up love story in the midst of summer movie season. Popping up in the middle of monsters, superheroes, and special effects is this endearing romance built around what Shakespeare (and George Orwell) called “a merry war” between two teachers that challenges the darker wars each is fighting with themselves.

Jack Marcus (Clive Owen) teaches English at a prep school, very popular with his students and very good at getting the best from them. Once a promising poet, he has been unable to make any progress on a new book and his relationships in the community, with the school administration, and with his son are deteriorating due to his abuse of alcohol. The prestige he had as a writer “made it easier to forgive [his] faults,” a school board member warns him. His sense of himself as a good teacher is what fuels his denial about his failures in other parts of his life, and keeps him feeling superior. He likes to challenge the other faculty members to word games, especially one involving coming up with five-syllable words for each letter in the alphabet.

A new teacher arrives. Her name is Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche) and like Jack, she is respected for her work outside the classroom as a gallery artist. (The paintings in the film were created by Binoche herself, who is an accomplished artist.) When she says she teaches art, Jack comments, “Hence the scarf.” When he tells her he teaches literature, she responds, “Hence the ‘hence.'” He feels awake for the first time in many years because like Ferdinand in Shakespeare’s “Tempest,” he has found someone who speaks his language.  Jack talks too much. Dina talks too little, especially when it comes for the reason she is teaching and the reason she left New York and the reason she uses a cane, all of which are the same reason.

Or has he? He challenges Dina with a five-syllable “a” word: antihistamine. She responds “blahblahblahblah,” which, as he points out, is just four syllables, and, as he does not point out because he is intrigued by her, it is not a word. Dina believes that pictures are not just worth a thousand words, they are truer, too. They conduct a “merry war” between words and pictures because first, it captivates the students, and that matters to both of them more than they admit to themselves, and second, like the five-syllable word challenge, it gives them a witty context to explore some romantic feelings without getting too sentimental.  It can be arch and artificial, but it is smart and funny and Owen and Binoche are clearly enjoying themselves and we enjoy it, too.

Parents should know that this film includes strong language, some crude, sexual references and a sexual situation, painful family confrontations, illness, and some mild peril.

Family discussion:  Which do you prefer, words or pictures, and why?  How should the school handle a problem like the one faced by Emily?  What makes a great teacher?

If you like this, try: “Roxanne,” by the same director and “Dan in Real Life” with Juliette Binoche



Previous Posts

What Happened to All the Great Quotable Movie Lines?
Michael Cieply has a fascinating piece in the New York Times about the movie lines we love to quote and why there don't seem to be any new ones. Look through all of the top ten lists of the year, and see if you can think of one quotable line from any of them. That doesn't mean they aren't well wri

posted 3:58:57pm Dec. 20, 2014 | read full post »

George Clooney and the Cast of Downton Abbey
You don't have to be a fan of "Downton Abbey" (or "Mr. Selfridge") to love this hilarious spoof, with guest appearances by Jeremy Piven, George Clooney and the Absolutely Fabulous Joanna Lumley. [iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ryo7fqdmcGQ?rel=0" frameborder="0"] [

posted 1:43:50pm Dec. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Ask Amy Says: A Book on Every Bed
I love to remind people about Amy Dickinson's wonderful "Book on Every Bed" proposal: Here’s how it happens: You take a book (it can be new or a favorite from your own childhood). You wrap it. On Christmas Eve (or whatever holiday you celebrate), you leave the book in a place where Santa is

posted 12:00:42pm Dec. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: Matthew Llewellyn, Composer for Wally Lamb's "Wishin' and Hopin'"
Wishin' and Hopin' is Lifetime movie airing December 21, 2014, based on the novel by Wally Lamb. It stars Molly Ringwald and Meat Loaf with narration by Chevy Chase. Composer Matthew Llewellyn was kind enough to answer my questions about creating a score for this nostalgic holiday story. How d

posted 9:40:56am Dec. 20, 2014 | read full post »

Wild's Cheryl Strayed Has a New Advice Podcast
Before Wild, Cheryl Strayed was the pseudonymous "Dear Sugar" advice columnist for The Rumpus. Her columns were collected in Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. Writer Steve Almond (Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America) also wrote as Dear Su

posted 3:59:40pm Dec. 19, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.