Mona Lisa Smile

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What a great movie!  It was a nice break from the cheesy romantic films, the Christmas movies, the action flicks, and the Disney fantasies.  Julia Stiles, Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, and all of the cast give and excellent performance portraying life at Wellesley College in the 1950s.

The movie explores the women’s roles and choices during the period.  The girls seem to want to graduate college only to marry and become housewives.  Julia Roberts’ character, Katherine Watson, a bohemian from California, tries to teach them otherwise – that they can achieve anything because they are the smartest and sharpest women in the country.  She teaches the girls to look at the world through new eyes and realize that marriage and a family aren’t necessarily the ideals for everyone. 

While Dunst’s character struggles to keep up the appearances of her “perfect” marriage, Stiles’ character debates whether to go to law school at Yale or settle down with her boyfriend.  The title, Mona Lisa Smile, ties the underlying themes together – is she smiling because she’s happy, or is it just for show?  Things are not always as they appear.

Here’s an article comparing the issues of women’s roles and choices in the ’50s versus today.

Mona Lisa Song
by Livingston and Evans, recorded January 7, 1958

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you
You’re so like the lady with the mystic smile
Is it only ‘cause you’re lonely they have blamed you
For that Mona Lisa strangeness in your smile

Do you smile to tempt a lover, Mona Lisa
Or is this your way to hide a broken heart
Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep
They just lie there, and they die there
Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa
Or just a cold and lonely, lovely work of art


“You can bake your cake and eat it, too.” ~Katherine Watson, Mona Lisa Smile

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