Mona Lisa Smile

Julia Roberts teaches posh girls to be defiant

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The pupils don’t all stand on their desks at the climax, but near enough. Mike Newell’s tale of pioneering ’50s feminists?and how spiritually wonderful Julia Roberts is?is Dead Poets Society with a gender switch. A great cast (Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Marcia Gay Harden) support La Julia like trusty table legs. Only less wooden.

Californian teacher Katherine (Roberts) arrives at a posh New England women’s college to teach art history. Her forward-thinking ways first bamboozle then annoy the students and staff. They’ve been taught to believe marriage is all; that their destiny is dishwashing. Gradually, though, Jools and her ‘but-is-it-art?’ discussions convert them to a liberated world view, as Dunst discovers that men are bad, Stiles clarifies that some aren’t, and Gyllenhaal advocates promiscuity.

This is a Rolls-Royce vehicle for a major star. If rose-tinted, it’s intelligent and well performed by the generation hungry to supplant Julia.


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