• Publication date: December 1, 2010

They knew how to live but she taught them how to think Mona Lisa Smile: Breaking free from social limits

Mona Lisa Smile is the tale of a feminist professor�s struggle against societal norms and her passion to transform some of the country�s brightest young women into professionals equal to their male counterparts in competence.

Mona Lisa Smile is the tale of a feminist professor�s struggle against societal norms and her passion to transform some of the country�s brightest young women into professionals equal to their male counterparts in competence.

Oscar nominee and Academy Award winner Julia Roberts plays Katherine Watson, a fresh graduate of UCLA who relocates to the conservative all-girls Wellesley College in New Hampshire. Before arriving to Wellesley she pictures a wonderful opportunity to instruct America�s young up and coming female lawyers, doctors and educators � but instead discovers women merely in search of corporate husbands.

Set in the early 1950s, Wellesley College is a prestigious school for young women, the alma mater of the likes of Hillary Clinton. Watson, a practicing feminist before there was such a label, naively believes that leaving Los Angeles to teach at a women�s college will allow her to spread her ideas of male-female equality to a younger generation of students; she also wrongly assumes that her beliefs regarding women�s liberation would be welcomed by the predominately female faculty.

Watson is an art history professor. While she loves classical works, Katherine sees great potential in the modern art movement and its ability to relate women�s issues to an art world dominated by men. Upon her arrival to Wellesley she comes equipped with a stack of slides containing the works of renowned artists. Her exercise for the first day involves identifying and discussing the artists behind each painting. Katherine is flabbergasted when the highly intelligent students are able to identify, practically in unison, the creators of every painting, along with a detailed description of their history and meaning.

Realizing that her students already have a grasp on classic art, she attempts to introduce modern artists such as Jackson Pollock into the school�s curriculum, but meets powerful opposition. The school�s faculty is particularly irritated by Watson�s persistent emphasis on the avant garde movement�s dismissal of agreed upon conventions, insisting that women must also throw aside traditional female roles such as housekeeping and motherhood. In essence, her values are in staunch opposition to the school�s values, which aims to turn their girls into nothing more than attractive commodities to bring in a high paid husband.

Indeed her focus on academics causes an uproar in an environment where married women are generally excused from class attendance and work. Watson is unwilling to sacrifice her principles however, and denies a newly married student (Kirsten Dunst) a free ride just because she now has a husband. In opposition, Dunst�s character � the editor of Wellesley�s newspaper, launches a fierce campaign against Watson in an article that questions her values in relation to the school�s moral agenda. Another article reveals that Katherine�s friend and coworker Amanda (Juliet Stevenson) supplied a student with birth control, leading to Amanda�s immediate firing.

Despite opposition to Watson, she soon inspires a small following of passionate students, one of which transforms from an aspiring homemaker into a Harvard law student. Even some of Watson�s greatest critics change their opinion of the previously feared academic dissident.

�Mona Lisa Smile� was nominated for two Golden Globes in addition to two Teen Choice Awards. The soundtrack features musical artists such as Tori Amos, Elton John, Celine Dion and many more. It is rated PG-13 for sexual content and thematic issues.

Showing on: MBC MAX

Year: 2003

Duration: 117 mins

Genre: Romance/ Drama

Starring:

Julia Roberts

Kirsten Dunst

Julia Stiles

Maggie Gyllenhall

Ginnifer Goodwin

Dominic West

Directed by: Mike Newell