Mona Lisa Smile

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Mona Lisa Smile: Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman. (LeanNMean-2 write-off)

Dec 20, 2003 (Updated Dec 20, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:I think.

Cons:Therefore I am... not getting my fat butt in shape.

The Bottom Line: It's pretty much exactly what I expected by the trailer. Gyllenhaal was great, but Julia Stiles wasn't too bad either.


This was definitely "one to miss" the first time I saw the trailer. But you know what they say about curiosity and the cat.

Mona Lisa Smile is what I guess you might call a "f*ck tradition" kind of movie. Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts) gets a job as an art history teacher at Wellesley College. But her students turn out to be a bit smarter than she was anticipating. So she changes her approach, and the class has a wonderful discussion about what art is (or what it isn't) and who is qualified to define it.

Then Amanda Armstrong (greatly played by an underused Juliet Stevenson), one of the school faculty, gets caught distributing contraceptives and she is fired. Just goes to show ya, you don't mess with the rules. Strangely enough, though, it is commonplace at that very same school for teachers to turn their heads when the girls miss classes because they got married.

As far as story goes, this is about as close to a story as it gets. Ms. Watson is content with questions, the girls have nothing but answers. Ms. Watson is content with life as a process, the girls want to get to the destination. Ms. Watson wants to teach these girls to be "tomorrow's leaders, not their housewives".

But her students, four of whom we focus on in particular, have their own stories. Joan could get accepted to Yale, but she's not sure she wants to put off the "home life" where tradition would have her be. Betty gets married right away, and starts to miss classes, but things only get worse at home too. Giselle lives with a torrid past. And Constance is just trying to make friends.

Julia Stiles (Joan) is easy on the eyes, even if she does act 10 years older than she is. Her accent was not too shabby. Meanwhile, the "other" Julia (Roberts) struts her usual stuff. She's not terrific, but not terrible either. I think she may just be having a little too much fun playing miserable roles (falling on the ice comes to mind) when in real life, she is anything but. But enough about that. Ginnifer Goodwin (Constance) was just a cute girl playing a cute sideplot.

Kirsten Dunst (Betty) is just too damn pretty to be defiant. You don't want to see her upset, 'cause then you get upset yourself. She actually did a decent job b!tchin' it up here. I kinda liked her hair too. Speaking of hair, who knew Maggie Gyllenhaal (Giselle) had so much of it? I thought that stuff was gonna avalanche right out into the auditorium. As always, Maggie is excellent. Purely natural, graceful and highly in tune with her surroundings. Watch out for her in the coming years; she'll be dangerous.

I'm not sure what exactly Mona Lisa Smile sets out to say, except that maybe nothing is as it seems. I think the old traditions were society's way of "protecting" women. So they could follow "tradition" or they can go their own way, but for most of the women in the movie, they end up miserable either way, unless they get rid of their guys. Julia Stiles does get a great speech in toward the end in which she basically plays the kettle calling the pot black in return. It's no better to blindly shun tradition than it is to blindly follow it. Something like that. So I wasn't really sure which side I was on by the end! So I can't say the movie didn't make me think.

On the other hand, I'm not sure what exactly I AM thinking. Recommended for females, intellectual people, modernists, Maggie Gyllenhaal fans, and those with a great deal of patience. Not me, though.

=======================================

This review has been brought to you by the Lean N Mean 2 write-off organized by sleeper54. The objective is simple, just write a review that's 666 words or less. But since the deadline is tomorrow (Dec. 21) I'm not sure why I'm talkin' like a recuiter over here. Take care now~


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