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Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

tomatometer

35

Average Rating: 4.9/10
Reviews Counted: 149
Fresh: 52 | Rotten: 97

Though Mona Lisa Smile espouses the value of breaking barriers, the movie itself is predictable and safe.

42

Average Rating: 5.1/10
Critic Reviews: 43
Fresh: 18 | Rotten: 25

Though Mona Lisa Smile espouses the value of breaking barriers, the movie itself is predictable and safe.

audience

61

liked it
Average Rating: 3.1/5
User Ratings: 207,177

My Rating

Movie Info

Set in 1953, Mona Lisa Smile tells the story of Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts), a new young art history professor at Wellesley College, an all-female campus with a prestigious reputation for academic excellence. Unfortunately for free-minded Berkeley grad Watson, her East Coast teaching stint comes during a less-progressive time that finds most of her students -- among them Betty Warren (Kirsten Dunst), Joan Brandwyn (Julia Stiles), and Giselle Levy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) -- more interested in

PG-13,

Drama, Comedy

Mark Rosenthal, Lawrence Konner

Mar 9, 2004

$63.7M

Sony Pictures Releasing - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (159) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (52) | Rotten (97) | DVD (27)

Roberts asks her students rhetorical questions: What makes art good or bad? Who decides? But the movie answers them as canonically as the syllabus Roberts abandons.

January 10, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Women of the Fifties, rise up in protest.

December 23, 2003
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

In terms of the gap between the movie it's trying to be and the movie it actually is, Mona Lisa Smile is in many ways indefensible. Yet for all its problems, it's satisfyingly movielike.

December 20, 2003 Full Review Source: Salon.com
Salon.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Anyone who's ever been moved by a teacher to dream a slightly bigger dream than his parents thought he or she was capable of achieving ought to love the film, for it gets at a truer model of teacher's inspiration.

December 19, 2003
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Like the turtleneck cashmere sweaters and girdles that tie down these promising women, the movie is trite and trussed.

December 19, 2003
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Rather than being a fascinating exploration of a much more constrained time in our social history, the film simply feels anachronistic.

December 19, 2003 Full Review Source: USA Today
USA Today
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Glossy entertainment value but far from art.

December 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles and Maggie Gyllenhaal furnish well-observed performances that frequently outshine Julia Roberts's reflex characterization in this female variant of "Dead Poets Society."

May 12, 2009 Full Review Source: ColeSmithey.com
ColeSmithey.com

Period dress, set design, manners and acting are fine--as is Mike Newell's direction. If only the script was less predictable.

October 30, 2004 Full Review

...would have been better served by characters with a little less formula than the paint-by-numbers projects so loved by these women of Wellesley College.

September 20, 2004
Tyler Morning Telegraph (Texas)

Mike Newell directs a formulaic Roberts vehicle that isn't without its charm.

July 20, 2004 Full Review Source: FilmFocus

Mike Newell takes the road most travelled in tackling the sexual apartheid and hysteria of the 1950s.

May 14, 2004 Full Review Source: Low IQ Canadian

Smiles turn to frowns when you sense a paint-by-numbers feminist formula taking control.

February 27, 2004 Full Review Source: Boulder Weekly

Devoid of enjoyment, intelligence or interest.

January 27, 2004 Full Review Source: BBC

É um pouco difícil levá-lo a sério, já que sua postura de 'filme-denúncia' soa, no mínimo, anacrônica.

January 24, 2004 Full Review Source: Cinema em Cena
Cinema em Cena

Considered less as a piece of entertainment and more as an argument constructed to further a feminist agenda, the film is hugely impressive.

January 15, 2004 Full Review Source: eye WEEKLY

It's arthritic issues and pushy point of view add up to a grade that won't earn anyone here a diploma.

January 11, 2004 Full Review Source: Cinema Signals
Cinema Signals

Ambiguity [in this film] is the unwitting product of outrageous disorganization, wild ambivalence, and an unerring instinct for, well, error.

January 5, 2004 Full Review Source: Nick's Flick Picks
Nick's Flick Picks

Julia Roberts damns a paint-by-numbers kit of Van Gogh. Who is she trying to kid?

January 2, 2004 Full Review Source: Flak Magazine
Flak Magazine

A keen sense of how women have swam through a whole lot of repression and pain back then, to pave the way for females to breeze along through in the here and now.

December 31, 2003
Long Island Press

The performances here are winning, with [Julia] Roberts not afraid to share the screen with several younger actresses who are among the best and brightest in Hollywood today.

December 31, 2003 Full Review Source: Worcester Telegram & Gazette

This handsomely mounted and beautifully filmed drama sustains your interest for most of its running time and features fine performances across the board.

December 25, 2003
Reel.com

If you are a fan of Julia Roberts' huge, horse-like head and her equally equine braying laugh, rest assured both are in large supply.

December 24, 2003 Full Review Source: EricDSnider.com | Comment (1)
EricDSnider.com

We sense the shallowness of the situations,realizing they exist solely to build our expectations and then give us exactly what we want. Fulfilling,yes; enlightening,no

December 24, 2003 Full Review Source: Zertinet Movies
Zertinet Movies

Roberts' character may be presented as a breath of fresh air, but the movie surrounding her is the cinematic equivalent of halitosis.

December 23, 2003
Creative Loafing

Audience Reviews for Mona Lisa Smile

A nice film that Julia Roberts played outstandingly.
June 23, 2011
murphmann93
Bethany Murphy

Super Reviewer

Julia Roberts plays a teacher in the mid-1950's when colleges like Wellesley seem to exist just to prepare young women to be housewives, not independent people. Similar to 'To Sir with Love', the teacher has to not only teach, but inspire her students to strive to do the best they can.
July 11, 2010
Redlats

Super Reviewer

Mona Lisa Smile tries to be something unique and relies on it's all-star female audience far too much. Although I did enjoy it, there seems to be no real qualities to the plot. The cast really keeps your interest in this film and the social context, in which it's set, leaves you with some interesting questions.

*Worth a try*
March 12, 2010
SarahG1988

Super Reviewer

    1. Katherine Watson: I don't even want you to like it. What I want you to do is consider it.
    – Submitted by Kathy D (15 months ago)
    1. Joan Brandwyn: Do you think I'll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?
    2. Katherine Watson: Yes, I'm afraid that you will.
    3. Joan Brandwyn: Not as much as I'd regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I'm doing and it doesn't make me any less smart. This must seem terrible to you.
    4. Katherine Watson: I didn't say that.
    5. Joan Brandwyn: Sure you did. You always do. You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don't. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You're the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.
    – Submitted by Nadia N (19 months ago)
    1. Betty Warren: Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image.
    – Submitted by Nadia N (19 months ago)
    1. Betty Warren: Look at this, mother. She's smiling. Is she happy?
    2. Mrs. Warren: The important thing is not to tell anyone.
    3. Betty Warren: She looks happy, so what does it matter?
    – Submitted by Nadia N (19 months ago)
    1. Katherine Watson: It says here you're pre-law. What law school do you want to go to?
    2. Joan Brandwyn: I hadn't really thought about it. I always thought that after graduation I'd get married.
    3. Katherine Watson: And then?
    4. Joan Brandwyn: And then... I'd be married.
    5. Katherine Watson: You can do both.
    – Submitted by Moe J (21 months ago)
    1. Joan Brandwyn: She is too old for him.
    2. Giselle Levy: No, she is too smart for him.
    – Submitted by Adya R (2 years ago)
View all quotes (6)

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Foreign Titles

  • Le Sourire de Mona Lisa (FR)
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