Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Adams Ribs

A Movie Review

Mona Lisa Smile
is one of those inspiring teacher movies whose most distinguishing surface feature is that it is set at an all-girls university (as opposed to the all boys prep schools generally favored by this genre). While most easily though of as a Julie Roberts vehicle, it is in fact the cast of young Hollywood starlets (including Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhall, and Ginnifer Goodwin) who actually make the picture work.

Set during the 1953-1954 academic year at Boston areas Wellesley College, the story concerns Katherine Ann Watson (Julia Roberts), a California 'bohemian' sort who has come to the conservative school to teach an art history course. Though greeted at first with disdain to indifference by all but a few of her students and co-workers, you know that by the end of the year she as won over, or at the very lest impressed, the whole campus.

Though my description my sound a little trite this is acutely an enjoyable movie, that fights the cultural battles of the 1950's with healthy ambiguity. The four primary young women characters are treated with some complexity, and issues of expectation and individualism are fairly addressed, with no pat answer provided other then that one must ultimately chose ones own path, what ever that may be. Though the social order of the time must play as nostalgia for most modern American audiences, Mormons viewers may find the cultural dynamic in the film to be more relevant to there experiences and thusly hit closer to home. The whole thing could easily be remade and set at present day BYU-Idaho. The film also features Topher Grace, John Slattery, Marcia Gay Harden, and Dominic West as Ms. Roberts love interest.


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