Mona Lisa Smile
- Mike Newell
- Reviewed by
- José Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Wednesday, February 04, 2004
In 1953, Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts) accepts a post at Wellesley College, where she encounters the strict social rules by which all her students live. Being a free-spirited woman, she tries to influence these young girls about going for their dreams. Betty (Kirsten Dunst) makes it too difficult for her, as she believes in getting married and be there for her husband. Joan (Julia Stiles) is undecided whether to go to Harvard or marry her boyfriend (Topher Grace). Then there are Giselle (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who sees Katherine for what she is, and Connie (Ginnifer Goodwin) who longs to have a guy falling for her.
To be honest, the movie is neither particularly profound nor I think did it try to be. I think director Mike Newell and his actresses knew from the get-go that this would be a light comedy-drama that just wanted to tell a story and send a message out there. In that respect, it worked wonders for me. It is a pleasant movie, and it is also entertaining and fun to watch.
I loved Katherine’s story and the way she tried to change the girls’ perspective in life. It never felt corny or cheesy to me. There’s too much preaching about not having to get married and have a family to be happy, but that’s what the movie is all about, so I didn’t care that much. On the other hand, I absolutely loved how Katherine’s character also goes through a lot of trouble and isn’t just a one-dimensional “perfect” character. She has her own ideas about life, but life is too complicated and you never know what’s going to happen. That said, I loved the outcome of Julia Stiles’s character and the scene in which she confronts Katherine about it. There’s much more to life than simple rules, whether it’s one extreme or the other. It’s just a matter of doing what you feel happy about.
The movie is very well-acted, with Julia Roberts sporting her classic smile and taking the most out of it. She’s charming and easy-going. Love her! Kirsten Dunst is also excellent as the movie’s villain. Julia Stiles seems rather stiff at times, but she always does, so whatever. Maggie Gyllenhaal is absolutely delightful, as is Ginnifer Goodwin. And Marcia Gay Harden also appears in a good bit.
“See past the paint, let us open our minds to a different idea.”
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Other reviews of Mona Lisa Smile (2003): Groucho