Mona Lisa Smile Movie Review
One of the box office duds of 2003 was Mona Lisa Smile, one of the few fizzles that have appeared on Julia Roberts' resume in recent years. Thanks to bad timing, poor marketing and and a recognizable plot, it failed to make back its budget. Nonetheless, it is a surprisingly decent film with some entertaining moments.
In what can only be deemed as the female version of Dead Poet's Society, Roberts stars as Katherine Ann Watson, a feminist who has taken up a job as an art history professor at one of the most prestigious girls' school in the country. Every girl that attends her class is intelligent beyond dreams, but Katherine soon learns that the school is less about stimulating the girls' minds and more about preparing them for wifehood. Her frustration strikes chords with the schools' administration, who frown upon her new ways of thinkings. Nevertheless, she soon begins to grow on her students.
There is nothing especially new about this movie; as mentioned before, it is just a woman's version of a film that has already been made. The formula has been done many times, including the Kevin Kline movie The Emperor's Club. Despite the plot's unoriginality, I tend to be a sucker for these kinds of films, and I liked Mona Lisa Smile.
Roberts does a good job in the lead, though there is nothing extraordinary about her performance; there is nothing especially challenging about the role. Her supporting cast, which includes some of the higher quality "teen-oriented" women Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles and Maggie Gyllenhaal, is fun to watch, but none of them really ascend above the others.
While little will be missed by not watching this movie, it is entertaining from start to finish, with some good jokes and lighthearted drama. The relationships that form and are broken with Roberts are pretty interesting.
Mona Lisa Smile is a fun little film that has few flaws, but it is clear that it is trying to avoid risks as much as possible. Those of you that enjoy these "teacher-challenge-the-students" movies should check out Mona Lisa Smile, but for the rest of you, you may want to wait for director Mike Newell's 2005 piece of work, a little film titled Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.