Related Articles: Movies, All

Mona Lisa Smile

Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Julia Stiles, Marcia Gay Harden, Ginnifer Goodwin and Dominic West all play major roles in Mona Lisa Smile. And while the ability to rattle off name after name may make for a good trailer, it is precisely why the movie languishes in mediocrity. With the onus of so many stories to tell, the characters are often reduced to one-dimensional caricatures.

Set in 1953, Roberts plays art history professor Katherine Watson who accepts a position at Wellesley so she can shape the minds of next generation's females. Instead, she encounters a group of pedantic and pretentious princesses more interested in preserving a woman's right to be barefoot in the kitchen than making an impact on society.

This is neither the first, nor the last time that the 'teacher inspires students and in doing so learns something about herself' tale will be told, and for the most part it covers ground that has been trudged through several times before. However, for all its imperfections, there are several moments where the movie handles situations so intelligently that it nearly creates something insightful and accomplished.

Alas, what we end up with are spots of levity and numerous flashes of Roberts' equine smile intermingled in a clichéd story. Intermittently illustrating the inequities faced by women half a century ago to maintain the audience's attention, it creates a well-paced movie easy to watch. And while that makes the film entertaining, it doesn't quite make it good.

Stars: 3 out of 5