Ever since Robin Williams encouraged his students to seize the day in 1989's Dead Poets's Society, inspirational professors have been popping up in popular cinema. From Richard Dreyfuss (Mr. Holland's Opus) to Michelle Pfeiffer (The Emperor's Club), actors and actresses have been taking on the roles of motivational scholars and it seemed about time for a star as large as Julia Roberts to portray the 'awe-inspiring academic' as well.
Roberts plays Katherine Watson, a free-thinker who takes a job teaching art history at the prestigious Wellesley College in the year of 1953. Things get off to a shaky start due to the fact that all of her students have been raised to think inside the box. For the young girls (who all happen to be played by up and coming Hollywood starlets), life consists of going to college, getting married and devoting the rest of their lives to raising a nuclear family. Watson finds this life to be limiting and voices her opinion on the matter, which leads to a lot of head butting with the callous Betty Warren (Kirsten Dunst). The recently married student cannot understand why her fellow classmates (including Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ginnifer Goodwin) are so captivated by their outspoken prof. Warren isn't the only one thumbing her nose at the bright eyed brunette and the teacher is informed by her employers that she must conform in order to hold onto her job.
Mona Lisa Smile contains almost every single cliché you would expect from an uplifting melodrama which does nothing but label itself a genre picture. The film is far from a work of art; it's more of a contrived, chick-flick. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing for those who don't mind watching a film that they've already seen before only with different performers.
-College Then and Now
-What Women Wanted: 1953
-Music Video – Elton John "The Heart of Every Girl"