Mona Lisa Smile

Out Now On-Demand

In a world that told them how to think, she showed them how to live.

Dead Poets Society-style tale of a progressive art history teacher at a conservative 1950s college for girls, starring Julia Roberts and an ensemble cast of young up-and-coming actresses of the era including Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Ginnifer Goodwin and Maggie Gyllenhaal. From the director of Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Set in 1953, Katherine Watson (Roberts) is the new art history professor at Wellesley College, an all-female university with a formidable academic reputation. Unfortunately for the progressive Ms. Watson, her precocious young students are more focused on marriage than education, let alone a career. Katherine challenges the girls to choose their own paths but meets resistance from faculty, parents and even the students. Meanwhile, Katherine must choose between romance and her own desire to remain a free spirit.

Empire

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There are some roles Julia Roberts was born to play - a tart with a heart, say, or a likeable and famous actor - but a charismatic, inspiring 1950s teacher is not one of them.

NZ Herald

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Art History 001 and kindergarten-level sociology.

The Guardian (UK)

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The darker shades of the charismatic teacher we find in Frenzy (the 1944 film Ingmar Bergman wrote for Alf Sjöberg) and The Pride of Miss Jean Brodie are not to be encountered here... still, this is an intelligent, attractive and good-looking film.

Time Out (London)

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An exhausting cram session of hair trigger speechifying and identity transformations bordering on science fiction.

Variety

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An appealing female cast gives the hollowly formulaic "Mona Lisa Smile" more dignity than it perhaps deserve.