Mona Lisa Smile/America’s Sweethearts

Mona Lisa Smile:
In the year 1953, a young, dynamic woman who graduated from UCLA named Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts – Ocean's Twelve, Closer) is hired to teach art history at the ultra-conservative all-girls school Wellesley College. Watson's different teaching style causes a stir amongst the students and other faculty members. She tells her students that they can be whatever they want and do not just have to get married. Her progressive ways cause her to butt heads with the snobby, rich and influential student named Betty Warren (Kirsten Dunst – Spider Man 2, The Virgin Suicides). She does reach several students, however, like the intelligent Joan Brandwyn (Julia Stiles – Save The Last Dance, The Bourne Supremacy), who yearns to go to law school rather than just be a wife. Katherine rubs many of the other faculty the wrong way, but finds an ally in fellow professor Nancy Abbey (Marcia Gay Harden – Mystic River, Pollock) and a romantic interest with Bill Dunbar (Dominic West – Chicago, 28 Days). Many of the young female students end up enamored with the free-spirited Katherine. They are now torn between their predestined lives as someone's wife and the idea of getting an education and being successful on their own terms. Katherine has to find a way to teach the way she wants without ruffling too many feathers.

Though this was seen as somewhat of a comeback for Miss Roberts it really wasn't that great a performance for her. I guess people were just so happy to see her on the screen again they didn't care what she was in. I also was fairly disappointed in director Mike Newell (Donnie Brasco, Four Weddings and a Funeral), who usually makes great films. Now, Mona Lisa's Smile wasn't horrible; it just isn't great either. It is harmless enough in its predictability, but it suffers from some awful stereotypes as well. What I am ultimately criticizing is the script, written by Lawrence Konner (Planet of the Apes, Mighty Joe Young) and Mark Rosenthal (The Beverly Hillbillies, The Jewel of the Nile). There is very little character development in the film, so much so that you end up scratching your head over why different characters make the decisions they do. What is good about the script is that it does not go for the 'happy' ending; it allows for a realistic story. The supporting cast is great in that it is made up with some of the best young actresses in Hollywood today.

Special Features:
-Art forum
-College then and now
-What women wanted: 1953
-Music video "The Heart of Every Girl" by Elton John
-Trailers for: Mona Lisa Smile, 13 Going On 30, Spider Man 2, Big Fish, Something's Gotta Give, The Company, 50 First Dates, My Best Friend's Wedding, America's Sweethearts, and Stepmom

America's Sweethearts:
Much to everyone's chagrin, America's favourite acting couple, Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones – The Legend of Zorro, Traffic) and Eddie Thomas (John Cusack – Say Anything, Must Love Dogs), have broken up. Gwen has fallen for Latin actor, Hector Gorgonzolas (Hank Azaria – Mystery Men, Along Came Polly), which drives Eddie crazy. As a result, Eddie decides to take some time off to go into therapy with a 'wellness' guide (Alan Arkin – Grosse Pointe Blank, So I Married An Axe Murderer). A monkey wrench is thrown into everyone's lives when the director of Gwen and Eddie's last film, Hal Weidmann (Christopher Walken – Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter), holds the film's print hostage. Weidmann tells studio head, Dave Kingman (Stanley Tucci – Shall We Dance, Robots) he wants to show it to the press first before anyone else. To defuse the entire mess, Kingman hires public relations wiz, Lee Phillips (Billy Crystal – Analyze That, When Harry Met Sally) to be in charge of the press campaign for the film. Phillips schemes to get Gwen and Eddie back together, or to at least seem to, for one weekend in Nevada. Due to the fact that Gwen and Eddie hate each other and Gwen is in love with Hector and Eddie is falling for Gwen's sister/personal assistant, Kiki (Julia Roberts – Mona Lisa Smile, Flatliners) things don't exactly go as he planned.

When director Joe Roth (Christmas With The Kranks, Freedomland) was able to assemble all this talent my expectations were quite high. Unfortunately the sum did not equal the parts. Even the humour in the script, which was co-written by Billy Crystal, falls flat. What tries to be passed off as funny are things such as Billy Crystal's character repeatedly getting romantically attacked (if you catch my drift) by Gwen's Great Dane. The acting is not their best work for any of the cast and some performances are actually quite bad. Though Zeta-Jones is somewhat amusing as the self-centered star actress. America's Sweethearts was probably meant to be a satire of Hollywood actors/actresses and the industry itself, but due to a poor script and performances it ends up being a satire without any bite.

Special Features:
-Deleted scenes with director's introductions
-Theatrical trailers for: America's Sweethearts, My Best Friend's Wedding, and The Mask of Zorro

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