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Movie Review: Mona Lisa Smile

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Last month marked the 20th Anniversary of the release of Mona Lisa Smile, a beautifully written movie with a cast that directors can only dream of.  

Now I really love this movie.  Some of my favorite actresses starred in this movie (cough cough Julia Stiles) and it truly was incredible. But what I learned in research for this movie is that I am one of the few that hold that opinion. I found that many people, both audience and critics,  see it as a boring and predictable movie that showed many of the character archetypes in a bad light. Not only that, but according to an article from the New York Times in 20003 the real Wellesley College Had to release an official apology statement to the students and alumni. Stating that it was a huge misinterpretation of Wellesley students in the 50’s, stating that they wore jeans and not aprons, and they were allowed to pursue their hobbies, and overall less conservative. Which, yes  movie may have portrayed Wellesley College incorrectly, but in my opinion the  movie wasn’t trying to portray Wellesley College specifically, they were more focused on telling a story of what women were going through at the time in colleges, especially within all women’s colleges. In the 50s, which is the time the movie takes place, women were not capable of  pursuing many careers or aspirations. Many colleges did not even accept women at the time, the movie wanted to portray all of this. 

As I learned all this I started thinking, this movie isn’t wildly different from the Dead Poets Society (a movie I also love by the way). Of course Mona Lisa Smile has feminist themes, stars mostly women, and the obvious is set in an all women’s college versus the all boys boarding school. But in terms of actual content and plot it’s very similar, a teacher who changes students’ opinions and way of living through their subject, a group of young peers, and going against the status quo. With two movies I love so much, having such opposite ratings is very fascinating to me.

(a few small spoilers ahead, you’ve been warned.)

As far as the actual movie goes, I love it. I think many of the plot lines for the students are unique and interesting. All the actors portray their characters so well, I mean what else can you expect from one of the best casts I’ve seen? I also love how this movie portrays each character so authentically and compassionately, even the more snarky characters such as Betty Warren, who spends majority of the movie projecting her own insecurities onto her close friends and criticizing them for that. I love the inclusion of art, of course the art is needed since Julia Roberts plays.. Well the art teacher. But how these discussions are plated out, and the art they chose to include really adds to the movie. And the ending, wow the ending, i won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but at every turn it makes me cry. I believe it is one of the most beautiful displays of appreciation and love I’ve seen in a movie, but that’s just my humble opinion. Overall I gave the movie 5 out of 5 stars, maybe to some the movie was slow but i think it was paced very well. I highly recommend this wonderful movie and if you choose to watch it, I hope you enjoy it!

 

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About the Contributor
Besbris, Podcast Team/Staff
Besbris is one of our new members to the Voices Club and they are a Junior. They grew up in different parts of Oregon but have now settled in St. Johns.
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