An extraordinary woman, who led by example: Mona Lisa Smile (2003) Review

51ARNwdNLgLIt’s 1954 and Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts), an art teacher at Wellesley, is trying to follow the high standards the school expects of her. As a teacher, her expectations made to benefit her female students, begin to leave a sour taste in that, her expectations don’t adhere to the Wellesley cycle of married students’ ideals. One’s where they prep for etiquette and poise toward their future marriages, or already married lives rather than their careers.

There come many twists and turns through the polished dormitories of Wellesley where young women own the gift of being able to recite textbooks by heart, yet are scared to dream.

Main life goals become pipe dreams for these characters, played by names such as Julia Styles and Kirsten Dunst, and a rebel played by Maggie Gyllenhall who are having problems with men, other issues they cannot yet see. Unfaithful marriages and dictatorship over their achievements is clear however does nothing to scare these women who believe life only begins at marriage.

Miss Watsons repetitive advice on balancing both love and career is short-lived as a crowd of uptight female students attack her for her open views, blaming her radical syllabus, her lack of knowledge even. Yet the reality of these women at Wellesley reinstates a recurring theme here, one of realistic goals within reach. Though marriage may be ideal for most these girls, it cannot promise happiness, only advertises it with no guarantees.

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Julia Roberts as teacher Katherine Watson

The moral of the script, reinforces the intriguing idea of the unexpected. Without the repetitive theme of marriage, the characters would be unable to tap into their potential . At the start, they all seem to want the same expected happy ending, though it does not suit them all. Many are not sure what to do instead of marriage though by the end, hence the fear and the fact that they are branded aimless wanderers. However, it must be said that aimless wanderers are not indeed aimless. Beyond definition, these characters invoke a certain ‘ce sera sera’ attitude by the end of this film which is uplifting, realistic and empowering. Open mindedness serves them well, making the ending of this film refreshing to say the least.

monalisasmile
Students at Wellesely
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