Volume 6, Issue 2 University of Houston
'Mona Lisa' doesn't smile
By Geronimo Rodriguez
Mona Lisa Smile is a bearable movie about young women's struggles, but it would have been worth recommending if its characters would've had a chance to breathe. Instead, director Mike Newell's work is a rushed journey through a handful of schoolgirls' lives, leaving viewers with too many questions about the story.
Why is Katherine Watson, played by the stale Julia Roberts, the cornerstone of change when all she does is cry about how crude Wellesley girls can be? Why do Joan and Giselle, portrayed by Julia Stiles and Maggie Gyllenhaal, respectively, disappear just when their characters get interesting? What's up with the lame ending? Why is the movie called Mona Lisa Smile?
Enjoy the way the movie blossoms in the first couple of minutes, percolating into a fine mess about women in the 1950s. Smile as Stiles, Gyllenhaal and Kirsten Dunst shine in their roles of semi-suppressed women. But try not to look away when Roberts' character disrupts the logic of the plot, or when Newell gets sentimental.
Julia Roberts (left) can't carry Mona Lisa Smile, but Julia Stiles (front) and other young actresses give solid performances.
Trying to figure out who's to blame gets more confusing when you look at the movie's writing credits. Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal --the duo that collaborated on The Beverly Hillbillies, Mercury Rising, Mighty Joe Young and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace --churned out this bad girl.
Perhaps the DVD version will offer deleted scenes or even delete some scenes to do some good for the film world, but that's just wishful thinking. The premise isn't bad, but it could've been handled better, especially with the solid acting efforts of the young stars.
As for Roberts, who hasn't carried a film since 2000's Erin Brockovich (even then she had Steven Soderbergh), it's time for her to change something more than her clothes to get into character.
Mona Lisa Smile
Starring: Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles
The verdict: Newell should be ashamed of himself.
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