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Mona Lisa Smile Movie Review (5.5/10)

Posted on January 11th, 2004 filed in Movie Reviews    |   

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This movies takes place in the early 50’s, as a new Art History teacher, Katherine Preston, played by Julia Roberts, arrives to Wellesley College, a most prestigious yet conservative, all girl, American institution. The liberal, progressive teacher challenges her students and encourages them to become ‘tomorrow’s leaders, not their wives.’ Naturally, she must face many obstacles before winning the hearts of her students and changing their lives.


The movie plot is very unoriginal and without any surprises. It is full of clichés and stereotypes that are mixed with a few fancy words and high budget actresses to produce a movie whose advertisement highlights the most interesting lines.

Ironically this feminist movie, shedding light on the beginning of the women’s movement, was written by two men and directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral). Also ironically, the movie’s main message is about breaking new grounds, being creative and original but we cannot but draw strong comparisons between this movie and Robin William’s ‘Dead Poet’s Society’.

It is very interesting, however, to see how far we have come in the past 50 years. For a nurse to be fired only because she gave contraception to students is totally appalling nowadays. For women to be taught how to eat and sit in order to attract more suitable husbands, the sacrifices that women made in order to get married and the need to keep a picture perfect are all things that have dramatically changed.

This movie has an amazing female cast renowned for their outstanding performances from Julia Roberts to Kristen Dunst…. However, I feel that their potential was stifled in their stereotyped roles. Julia Roberts shows a genuine passion for art and apparently she had to attend art History Classes at New York University. You leave this movie feeling like you would like to take a few art classes. Kristen Dunst gives an amazing performace of the cruel Betty. You can feel her anger and bitterness.

This movie is a bit too long for its story line (2 hours), and you will forget it after a few weeks but it has a good cast and some catchy lines. I suggest you watch it in the comfort of your home and I give it a 5.5 over 10.

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