Saturday, January 17, 2004

Mona Lisa Smile

I finally saw Mona Lisa Smile. Quite frankly, I have no idea how the two Charlottes at Inkwell stayed interested in this movie long enough debate it for repeated posts.

The setting of Mona Lisa Smile is Wellesley in 1953. Professor Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts) is a UCLA graduate who comes to Wellesley to teach art history and to stretch the minds of her students -- the epitome of the upper class "establishment." Due to the setting and the premise, some people have called this movie a Dead Poets Society for girls. However, I would strenuously disagree with any such comparison. First of all, Roberts’ character is such a stereotype that any comparison of Professor Watson to DPS’s Mr. Keating is almost heresy. Secondly, DPS had a clear and noble message while Mona Lisa does not seem to have any idea what it is trying to say to its audience.

But, this movie was not entirely without merit. There is one interesting scene when Watson’s best and brightest student (Julia Stiles) chooses to be a homemaker instead of choosing to attend law school at Yale. In the face of Watson’s obvious disapproval, that young woman reminds the professor that she is not forfeiting her intellect, interests or independence just because she is choosing a family over a career. In addition, Stiles’ character explains that she is just not willing to risk her dream of home and family in order to pursue what Watson considers a more liberated lifestyle.

The interaction between the Wellesley girls when they are not in the classroom is also quite interesting. Kirsten Dunst, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ginnifer Goodwin -- particularly Goodwin -- each play interesting and believable characters and give good performances. These young actresses, along with Stiles, really steal the show. This is so true that when scenes involving the personal life of Roberts’ character are on the screen, audiences are bound to be slightly bored (if not somewhat annoyed) by the time away from the characters they actually care about.

All in all, I would say that if you are going to see this movie, you may as well wait a few months for the video. If anyone else has seen this movie and would like to comment, send me an email and we'll discuss.