I love Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, so it was with great disappointment that I saw this imitation of someone's idea of a movie run on endlessly without merit, point, purpose, reason or destination.
I'm not quite sure where to start. The concept? Why would anyone get involved over the merits of words versus pictures? Something that is written, something that is painted... they are their own unique art forms. Why would anyone, especially someone as smart as Juliette Binoche, in real life, and as her character Dina Delsanto, engage in the bizarre tit-for-tat war manufactured by Clive Owen's Jack Marcus? She wouldn't. And more importantly, as this imitation movie unfolds, Clive's character, an in-denial raging alcoholic/blocked writer, harasses her and, more disturbingly, stalks her. Any woman in her right mind would have this irritant fired from the school and arrested. But no, she ends up allowing him to seduce her. Her apparent excuse is that she has rheumatoid arthritis and she doesn't know if each time she has sex will be the last time. So, in a way, she only did it for the pleasure of having sex, which I can't fault her for, but why with such a painfully obvious loser?
The film tosses us to and from between the worlds of Jack, an honors English teacher and Dina, an honors art teacher. Jack is obviously enamored of every word he says and thinks he's a great teacher, but he can't show up on time and he is so behind on grading papers that one of his students intelligently challenges him when he asks the class to do an assignment, pointing out that she needs to take his honors English class in order to get into university, and yet he hasn't bothered to grade the last three assignments. To this Jack barks at her do another assignment. Huh? On what basis? I'd complain to the principal and Jack would be either shamed into providing the grades, reprimanded, or dismissed.
Dina, on the other hand, comes to the school with a chip on her shoulder as she struggles with rheumatoid arthritis. She's called "Ms. Icicle" -- and Juliette obviously put in time researching her role as someone struggling with a physical disability. I liked her because I felt she was real. Jack, on the other hand, was so repulsive that I didn't care if he walked into oncoming traffic.
Also, the film tries to weave into two "B' stories, only one of which might be helpful. Jack has a young son who is apparently a runner or cyclist, based on his choice of attire. The fact that he is also a writer (or was) gets short shrift... but that piece of information will come back to haunt all who watch this questionable endeavor. The son, bright and sober, attempts to engage Jack in conversation and to set up a time for Jack to meet the son's girlfriend. But Jack is too interested in feeling sorry for himself, drinking, smashing things in his house, and harassing people with stupid word games in which he challenges people to keep expanding on the number of syllables in a word. Again... the point?
The other "B" story involves "Emily," played by Valerie Tian. Valerie has a very pretty, open, honest face. She doesn't seem to have a lot of expressions, but she has potential to be a good, if not a great, actress. In this film she plays a student who is unmercifully stalked by a fellow classmate who is madly in love with her. She doesn't share his feelings. He apparently draws an unflattering picture of her (which was impossible to make out, so I could not determine what the hysterical hubbub was about) which he posts on the Internet. Emily eventually turns to Dina for support, and Dina gives it to her in the only way she knows how: bluntly, cruelly and honestly. Okay, all that's great, but this is ANOTHER movie. This "B" story is woven throughout almost the entire film, wears thin quickly and does not in anyway enhance the main story.
As we draw towards it's trumpeted and obvious conclusion, all I could think was "Jack Marcus" was a delusional alcoholic stalker who might have had a gift for writing at one time (this last point is debated endlessly throughout the film), but... so what? So what that he had a gift? So what that his wife left him? The school board overlooks so much of his behavior that it is really a slap in the face to anyone intelligent.
The movie goes on way too long, and during the entire time I didn't feel a single emotion for anyone, although I initially could feel the depth of Juliette's character because of her extensive acting gifts.
But since I felt the initial premise was essentially a bad joke, and since Clive's character was so mean, delusional, cruel and selfish, I could not find a single reason to invest in anybody in this film.
There were times that I was distinctly aware of the camera, of the camera angles, of all the work involved in making this a film... and yet... where was the magic? I should have been transported; instead I kept being yanked from the Jack train to the Dina train to the Emily train. I was so black and blue after two hours that I had to put the movie out of my mind for two days before I could comment on it.
Overall a questionable endeavor that wastes a lot of time and talent and resources and doesn't present an argument worth addressing.