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Look out for more coverage of
Mona Lisa Smile in our magazines

THE MOVIE: Mona Lisa Smile

THE STARS:
Julia Roberts • Kirsten Dunst • Julia Stiles
• Maggie Gyllenhaal
DIRECTOR: Mike Newell

Mona Lisa Smile THE CONCEPT:
Set in 1953 at Wellesley College, a conservative woman’s university, Julia Roberts portrays Katherine Watson, a liberal art teacher who attempts to instruct her young students to think independently and pursue more in life than just marriage and children, persuading one of them, Joan Brnadwyn (Stiles) to apply to Yale Law School.

U.S. RELEASE: December 19 2003, Nationwide
• Rated: PG-13

THE COMMENTS:

JULIA ROBERTS on the research she did for the movie:
“I watched some really nice documentaries on the ‘50s which I thought were very informative. It is really an interesting period of time, where our culture became ruled by television and advertising. You were the appliances that you had. It’s interesting to me the way people measure their ideas of success and work. But for me it was sort of examining all this tradition of Wellesley in the ‘50s, and then standing next to it, as opposed to right within it, for the character that I played.”

JULIA STILES:
“What I learned from making this movie was that women didn’t really have choices in the ‘50s and they were under-appreciated and didn’t have a voice.”

KIRSTEN DUNST (Betty Warren):
“I’ve never played a role like this before in a big movie. I feel like a mass audience has only seen me as a cheerleader or Mary Jane (in Spider-Man). Although Betty’s the most restricted in the time and the society of it all, I could really see a lot of pain in this girl, trying to be alive and wanting to enjoy her life, but so held back and so juvenile in the way she acts out against the other girls. She’s a little girl who is trying to be this woman, and she’s 21.”

MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL (Giselle Levy):
“We’re so beyond the regressive thinking [of the ‘50s]. I think there are a lot of movies being made that include romance and sex now that don’t demand that the woman has to have a boyfriend or a husband in order to do something interesting.”

ROBERTS:
“Julia Stiles is remarkable. She’s such a poised, bright, interesting girl. She’s one of my favorite actors to watch in movies, and when we were first developing the ideas for the cast, she was the very first person that I absolutely wanted to have in this movie, playing any part that she wanted to play.”

STILES:
“Oh, that’s so nice. Wow. One of the things that I think is amazing about Julia is that she doesn’t adopt an intimidating attitude. I learned so much [from her] about how to exist in the public eye and maintain your integrity and sense of self. I was just really amazed that she’s so dedicated to the work that she does, and all the power that she’s accrued in Hollywood, she’s used so well.”

ROBERTS:
“I don’t know that I could say what I learned about art per se [from this movie]. I find the art of painting very fascinating and a timeless medium for expression. And I like the way that it’s applied in this particular film. I like the pieces that we chose, and the way that they’re used as waking the girls up and having them challenge their ideas of what’s beautiful and what’s interesting.”

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

Visit the official Mona Lisa Smile site
Images above © Revolution Studios/Sony Pictures
Feature © 2003 Visual Imagination.
Not for reproduction.

Film Review, #638, December 2003 cover

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