Mona Lisa Smile (PG-13)
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Caution: potential spoilers.
Well, we've all seen plenty of movies where some teacher shows up and makes a big difference in the lives of his or her students. In this case, Julia Roberts plays Katherine Watson, who starts teaching art history at Wellesley in Fall of 1953. She has a progressive attitude about women's place and potential, though many at the school considered her somewhat subversive. Of course she'd have some trouble from the school's administration, and even somewhat from her own students... on her first day, it turned out her entire class had already read the entire text for the lesson, and had pretty completely absorbed it, so... there was nothing left for her to teach them. She came, btw, from a not-so-pedigreed background, so they probably all thought they were better than her. And after that first class, I couldn't stand them.
However, from then on she began to deviate from the syllabus, and actually challenged them to think about art for themselves, rather than just accepting what the experts said in the texts they read. And after awhile, most of the students began to come around, and she became a rather popular teacher. She also got involved somewhat in the lives of some of her students. There were, as far as I could tell, four main students in the film: Betty Warren (Kirsten Dunst), Joan Brandwyn (Julia Stiles), Connie Baker (Ginnifer Goodwin), and Giselle Levy (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Not quite sure what to say about Connie and Giselle, though they each had their own situations going on. And I wasn't disinterested in them, I... just don't know what to say about it. But the characters who mainly stood out were Betty and Joan.
Betty often said mean things to some of her friends, and even to Katherine, though I think she always felt sort of bad about it. Um... I also think she was like the editor of the school paper, or whatever, and so narrated the movie occasionally, via her columns. Anyway, she married a young man named Spencer, and she pretty much thought that marrying a man was the main thing a woman should aspire to. But eventually she became dissatisfied with her marriage, and wanted out, in spite of her mother's insistence on keeping up appearances. Joan, meanwhile, wanted to become a lawyer, and Katherine tried to convince her she didn't have to choose between marriage and law school, she could do both. But she ended up marrying a man named Tommy (Topher Grace). And that was her choice... so, Katherine had a bit to learn, herself. At the start of the movie, Katherine had a boyfriend, but they eventually broke up, after he proposed. And later she started dating a professor named Bill Dunbar (who previously had relationships with students, including Giselle). Though that wouldn't really last, either. She seemed to think, despite always saying a woman could have both marriage and a career, that marriage was somehow, for her at least, an impediment to a career.
Well, I don't really know what else to say, except that I liked the movie more than I expected to. And it had some good music, a great cast, and interesting social themes, and... whatever. It was alright.