Our Rating: ★★★★☆
L Factor: Minor lesbian character
Short Take: It’s Wellesley College in 1953, and a feminist art history teacher causes waves. The school nurse is a lesbian.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 2003
Duration: 117 min
Language: USA/English
Director: Mike Newell
Writer: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Starring: Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dominic West, Juliet Stevenson, Marcia Gay Harden, John Slattery, Marian Seldes, Donna Mitchell, Terence Rigby, Jennie Eisenhower, Leslie Lyles, Laura Allen

Mona Lisa Smile Trailer

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Mona Lisa Smile

It’s Wellesley College in 1953. Katherine (Julia Roberts) is an independent woman and an art history teacher who wants her students to care more about themselves and their studies than finding husbands. She’s seen as subversive, overturning the traditional homemaker/wife roles of the 1950s, encouraging students to think for themselves and look towards life beyond marriage. Your basic feminist message film.

In a minor sub-plot, one of Katherine’s friends is school nurse Amanda Armstrong (Juliet Stevenson, Bend It Like Beckham). Amanda’s ‘companion’ Josephine was a biology professor who had passed away recently. Amanda gets fired for distributing contraceptives on campus, but acknowledges that she was already hated by an administration looking for a reason to discharge her. Because of the loss of Josephine, she doesn’t regret leaving.

Also features nice performances from Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles and Maggie Gyllenhaal as students. (AB)