Thursday, 24 July 2014

[Random number] things to know about _Words And Pictures_

So on $2.50 Tuesday at a local second-run movie theatre, since I was in the vicinity to dispatch some banking business, I decided to go watch something.

_Words And Pictures_ seemed moderately interesting: Australian director Fred Schepisi; Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen in lead roles.

Unfortunately it is set in the USA, yet shot in British Columbia passing for New England.  Thus it gets the Vegas treatment rather than a quieter, gentler interpretation of an intriguing narrative.

Consequently Owen reprises the Hemingway bombast he perfected in an earlier role.  He plays Jack Marcus: a charming, erudite, passionate, verbose and inspiring high school teacher who is also a deceitful, enraged alcoholic.

Binoche is allowed to develop multiple dimensions of her character Dina Delsanto; she is also a painter (in real life!) and it is her work that she produces that is featured in the movie.  It provides the script with some modicum of authenticity.

The students in this expensive, carefully groomed and pruned prep school are of "all sorts" though judiciously selected for their good looks; a vast palette of ethnic ancestries, all Benetton photo op-ready. 

Yet it's ironic how it happens that the de-rigueur bully character - also a creepy nascent sexual sadist - turns out to be NOT the typical privileged WASP but a cocky young man who may be the only student that might be considered "semitic" (though not overtly identified as such) at the snooty private school. 

He attempts to evade responsibility for his sexual harassment and stalking actions by framing a Black classmate for this particular vicious and vile prank.  The denials and protests that he utters, claiming he's done nothing wrong sound EXACTLY like the excuses and justifications proffered by Cody Boast.

Boast is the frat boy of pallour on the right.  He has received four convictions to date for his criminal actions.  He is a serial predator; unless all the women who have been the target of his abuse and rage speak up, nobody knows the exact number of victims upon whom he has inflicted his vindictiveness and spleen.

The psychiatrist claims that if Boast continues with his treatment it would be unlikely that he will re-offend.

I disagree. He supplied an obligatory proof of *remorse* with regard to the harm he inflicted up one ex-girlfriend and her family, at the same time he had started a campaign of intimidation and cyber-bullying against another prey.  He's learned much from these experiences; when his violent behaviour escalates, he will likely select new targets who won't have as much resources to push back as previous trophies did, and he will be much more efficient in disposing of evidence to avoid being caught.

But I digress.  Here's my list (I can hear my co-blogger FH groaning) of things that ruined _Words and Pictures_ for me.

  • Over-the-top dialogue. Less is more. The writer could learn a thing or two by watching films scripted by Noel Coward.
  • Mediocre or atrocious lighting and cinematography. Scenes shot on some sets are fine, but otherwise, ugh. There's one scene in bright sunlight, outside Dina's studio that looks so amateurish for an Australian director of photography that makes me suspect he delegated it to a gaffer.
  • Owen's hammy performance should have been reined in; he's capable of nuanced and powerful characterization. _Croupier_ and many more.
  • Actors cast in secondary character roles are excellent but sadly they are given crummy, cliché lines to spout. 
  • Inconsistencies and implausible details that make you go ... what?  For example: a chi-chi private school that can afford to hire an art instructor whose paintings command stellar prices has only a cramped, ill-equipped studio for honours students?  The spiteful pornographic caricatures produced by the criminally-stalkerish student are briefly flashed upon the screen and appear to be devoid of genitalia.  

There's more, but those are the highlights of points that undermined the movie's credibility and otherwise high-end qualities.

On balance, it's a better-than-average movie, if one is not vulnerable to the situations depicted. I found that parts of it were painful to watch; it could be extremely triggering for women who have experienced intimate relationships with alcoholics and/or men afflicted with entitlement delusions: expecting and wanting their emotional needs and sexual demands to be met.

There's been a flurry of excellent resources that have been suggested, with regard to this phenomenon: "A deeply disturbing portrait of male entitlement", "Nice guys, the friend zone and sexual entitlement" and "Men aren't entitled to women's time or affection" are some good items to read on the topic.

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