Mona Lisa Smile

  • 12
  • Mike Newell (2003)
  • US
  • 114 min
Mona Lisa Smile
Film Review
Reviewed By
3 out of 5

Feminism in the 1950s gets a soft-focus sheen in this sentimental drama from Four Weddings and a Funeral director Mike Newell. Ostensibly a female Dead Poets Society, starring Julia Roberts in the unconventional teacher role, it's an emotionally manipulative chick flick with a quasi-intellectual veneer. Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles and a vampy Maggie Gyllenhaal are among the students at a New England girls' college in 1953 whose lives are changed irrevocably by the arrival of unmarried art history lecturer Roberts and her scandalous free-spirited ways. Though the characters are all recognisable stereotypes, they're solidly performed, while Roberts makes a sympathetic lead, despite her often anachronistic behaviour and appearance. Newell ably captures the tensions caused when tradition and progression clash, but his simplistic view of the past is governed too much by the present to give the film any real authenticity. The end result is an earnest and glossy melodrama that presses all the right buttons yet never quite convinces.

Plot Summary

College drama starring Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles and Maggie Gyllenhaal. New England 1953: art history lecturer Katherine Ann Watson joins the staff at the prestigious Wellesley College for girls. But her idealism and free-spirited ways soon make waves in an institution governed by tradition and conformity. Undeterred, Katherine encourages her students to think independently, charting a new path for her own life in the process.

Cast and crew


Katherine Ann Watson
Julia Roberts
Betty Warren
Kirsten Dunst
Joan Brandwyn
Julia Stiles
Giselle Levy
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Bill Dunbar
Dominic West
Amanda Armstrong
Juliet Stevenson
Nancy Abbey
Marcia Gay Harden
Connie Baker
Ginnifer Goodwin
Paul Moore
John Slattery


Mike Newell

Other Information

Theatrical distributor: 
Columbia TriStar
Swearing and sex scenes.
Available on video, DVD and BluRay
Released 12 Mar 2004
Certificate 12
Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video