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"MONA LISA SMILE"
(2003) (Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst) (PG-13)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Heavy None Heavy None None
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Mild None None None Heavy
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Moderate Moderate Moderate None


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: A progressive-thinking art teacher takes a job at a conservative women's college with hopes of enlightening her students about the possibilities in their lives beyond serving their future husbands.
PLOT:
It's the fall of 1953 and Katherine Watson (JULIA ROBERTS) has left California and boyfriend Paul Moore (JOHN SLATTERY) for the New England campus of Wellesley College where she's to teach art history. She ends up being housemates with Nancy Abbey (MARCIA GAY HARDEN), the old-fashioned poise and elocution instructor, and meets Amanda Armstrong (JULIET STEVENSON), the school nurse whose lesbian lover has recently died.

Katherine has high hopes for teaching the best and brightest young women in the country, but knows of Wellesley's reputation for being the most conservative college around. Even so, she's shocked to learn that the various students - including Elizabeth "Betty" Warren (KIRSTEN DUNST), Joan Brandwyn (JULIA STILES) and Connie Baker (GINNIFER GOODWIN) - are basically wiling away their time until they get married and become wives and mothers to the likes of "catches" Tommy Donegal (TOPHER GRACE) and Spencer Jones (JORDAN BRIDGES).

Only the slightly bohemian Giselle Levy (MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL) seems to buck the trend, but she's interested in continuing her love affair with Italian professor Bill Dunbar (DOMINIC WEST) who's now set his sights on Katherine instead.

While dealing with that, Katherine also decides to chuck the class syllabus when she learns that her students are incredibly book smart but have no idea how to think outside the box. That obviously leads to strife with the college administrators who don't like her bending the rules as well as Betty who sets out to destroy her career, just like she did with Amanda. From that point on, Katherine tries to get her students to see the possibilities in their lives beyond serving their future husbands, all while dealing with her own personal life.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
It's a good bet that many girls - teenagers and maybe some older preteens - as well as fans of anyone in the cast will want to see it.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG-13
For sexual content and thematic issues.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • JULIA ROBERTS plays a liberal and progressive-thinking art teacher who tries to enlighten her students about the possibilities in their lives beyond serving their future husbands. Accordingly, she butts heads with the more traditionally minded staff and students. She also breaks up with her boyfriend, has a sexual fling with Bill, uses some profanity, and drinks some to the point of being intoxicated.
  • KIRSTEN DUNST plays a bright but proudly old-fashioned young woman who discovers that serving her husband isn't all that it's cut out to be. Before she learns that, she sets out to ruin both Katherine and Amanda's careers and purposefully make Connie and others feel bad. She also drinks a bit.
  • JULIA STILES plays another student who's torn between her ambition of being a lawyer and following Betty down the path of a domestic wife. She uses some brief profanity and briefly smokes.
  • MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL plays their more bohemian classmate who drinks, smokes and has various sexual flings with men much older than she is.
  • GINNIFER GOODWIN plays their somewhat frumpy classmate who wants to have a boyfriend and is upset when Betty tries to sabotage her newfound attraction to a guy. She smokes a few times.
  • MARCIA GAY HARDEN plays Katherine's housemate who teaches the girls etiquette and such matters and is decidedly old-fashioned. She drinks (once to the point of intoxication) and longs for her long-gone boyfriend from the past.
  • DOMINIC WEST plays a professor at the college who's done with Giselle as his lover and is now after Katherine. He has sex with her and drinks some.
  • JORDAN BRIDGES plays Betty's new and busy with business husband who turns out to be having an affair while she waits for him at home. He smokes a few times.
  • TOPHER GRACE plays Joan's boyfriend who wants her to be a traditional housewife and smokes a few times.
  • JULIET STEVENSON plays the school nurse, a lesbian who's fired not for her sexual orientation, but for handing out contraceptives at school.
  • JOHN SLATTERY plays Katherine's boyfriend who's concerned about her change of attitude regarding their relationship.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    The following is a quick look at the content found in this drama that's been rated PG-13. Profanity consists of a slang term for sex and two for male genitals, while other expletives and colorful phrases are uttered.

    Sexually related dialogue occurs in several scenes, a sexual encounter occurs off camera between two professors, while there's talk of other sexual encounters (including between a professor and his student), contraceptives and a woman being a lesbian.

    Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes, while some smoke and/or drink (several to the point of being inebriated). Tense family material includes a young woman discovering that married life is not all that it's cut out to be (her husband is often away on business and then has an affair).

    Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, you may want to look more closely at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Amanda asks Katherine, "How about a drink?" and we then see the two of them having wine with dinner.
  • Miscellaneous people drink in a bar where Bill asks Katherine if he can buy her a drink. We then see them having drinks.
  • People have champagne at a reception where Nancy states that she's getting a Manhattan and Dunbar says that he'll having a "Jack and Ginger." Later, Nancy appears intoxicated and says she'll have another.
  • Giselle drinks from a bottle.
  • People drink in a bar where Katherine has a drink and her boyfriend a beer.
  • A girl tells Katherine that she mustn't repeat what she sees, hears or smells in a secret society party (we don't see any drugs if that's what she's referring to). Some of the girls do drink (such as Giselle and Betty who have martinis), however, as does Katherine who drinks something that's strong.
  • Katherine tells the girls that she was once engaged to a guy with whom she smoked and got drunk among other things.
  • We see that Bill and Katherine have been drinking in a bar and both appear a bit intoxicated.
  • Giselle drinks from a flask.
  • Miscellaneous people have champagne.
  • People have drinks at a reception.
  • A man pours liquor for Katherine and himself.
  • Katherine and Nancy have champagne that Nancy had put out for Katherine as a surprise (we see the bottles on a table).
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • None.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • The girls in Katherine's class initially have a snobby attitude toward her and the fact that they know her course material before she teaches it.
  • Betty has a condescending and bad attitude toward most everyone and seems to enjoy making others feel bad. She also ruins Amanda's career and tries to do the same to Katherine.
  • Dunbar sleeps with some of his students (not seen).
  • Katherine bucks the tradition of the period and tells her students that they can have both careers and families (others view her as having a bad attitude for doing that).
  • Betty isn't happy that Joan applied and then was accepted to law school and didn't get her "approval" to do so.
  • Paul isn't happy when Katherine tells him that he has to sleep on the sofa rather than with her (in Nancy's house).
  • Katherine accidentally calls Paul, her boyfriend, Bill.
  • Since getting married, Betty has missed various classes and papers. She's then miffed that Katherine is not following the school tradition of cutting newlyweds some slack when it comes to class work. She then threatens Katherine with consequences if she fails her (and calls that "educating you").
  • Bill refers to the WWII Germans as Krauts in his class (not long after the war).
  • Betty meanly informs Connie (in front of the others) that her would-be boyfriend is seeing someone else, but Connie later learns that's not true.
  • Tommy tells Katherine (in a matter of fact, period style fashion) that Joan will be with him, following his career rather than hers.
  • We see that Giselle is having an affair with an older, married man.
  • We see Spencer, Betty's husband, kissing another woman.
  • Betty confronts Giselle about her promiscuous ways, asking, "Does he pay you for sex?" and then says that at the rate she's going, she could make a fortune. Betty comments on what the men do after "they've sampled you" and the term "whore" is then used.
  • Katherine learns that Bill lied about being in Italy during the war.
  • We hear that Betty's mother (who tries to control her daughter's life) reportedly referred to Giselle as a "New York kike."
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • None.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • None.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: What sounded like "Screw you," "You're a bitch," "Whom gives a damn anyway," "I sound like a pompous ass," "Tell me what the hell is going on," "To hell with Wellesley," what sounded like "You're positively vomiticious," "Whore," "Sure as hell," "Hell of a nice guy" and "Get the hell out of my way."
  • Giselle wears a period style, midriff-revealing top.
  • We hear that Joan eloped.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • None.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 1 slang term for sex ("screw"), 2 slang terms for male genitals ("d*ck"), 7 hells, 3 damns, 1 ass, 1 crap, 2 uses of "Oh God" and 1 use each of "G-damn" and "Oh my God."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We see Katherine looking at one of Picasso's famous cubist nude works (showing "nude" women who are blocky in nature).
  • Some ancient artwork (seen in a slide) shows a bare breast.
  • Giselle states that she sees a piece of art as erotic and another girl replies that everything is erotic to Giselle.
  • Giselle playfully tries to kiss Connie and then kiss at her clothed chest.
  • There's talk that Katherine had a "torrid affair" with William Holden.
  • A comment is made in reference to Giselle stating, "Unless she's sleeping with her Italian professor." One of the girls then spots Giselle's oral contraceptive case and Giselle calls the pill "a girl's best friend." Betty isn't happy about that since they're illegal and Giselle refers to her as "the last virgin bride." Betty says that her fiancÚ is a gentlemen, prompting Giselle to state, "Even gentlemen have d*cks." When Connie says that maybe she'll get one (a case of pills), one of the girls jokes, "What, a d*ck?"
  • A school paper headline reads, "School nurse encourages promiscuity" (regarding Betty's report on Amanda giving out contraceptives). Later, the school president, Jocelyn Carr, tells Amanda that they can't appear to promote sexual promiscuity and thus fires her.
  • Nancy states that Professor Dunbar sleeps with his students.
  • Nancy teaches the girls in her etiquette class that their sole responsibility come post-graduate life will be to take care of their husband and children. In that same class, Giselle tells Betty the reason that you don't put the boss' wife next to your husband at the dinner table is because "she's screwing him."
  • Giselle suggestively runs her hand along Bill's arm when she passes by him at Betty's wedding.
  • Dunbar tells Giselle that their affair was over in the spring. She somewhat jokingly responds that they then shouldn't have slept together over the summer.
  • Paul isn't happy when Katherine tells him that he has to sleep on the sofa rather than with her (in Nancy's house).
  • Katherine tells the girls that she was once engaged to a guy who she smoked with, got drunk with "and other firsts" (implying sexual activity).
  • When asked, Katherine says that she and Dunbar are not having an affair but then jokingly asks one girl how she heard that she and William Holden were.
  • We see a drawing of a woman in a bra and girdle (from a 1950s ad).
  • We briefly see an image of the Creation of Adam painting in the Sistine Chapel that shows male full frontal nudity.
  • Bill and Katherine kiss and we then see Katherine finishing getting dressed and coming down the stairs where we see Bill who's shirtless. He refers to himself as the rebound (since she just broke up with her boyfriend). She begins to comment on "whatever we're doing" and he jumps in with "we did pretty well." It's implied that they had sex.
  • Connie and a guy she likes kiss.
  • One of the young women shows a little cleavage in her one-piece bathing suit.
  • Connie refers to a guy's girlfriend as the one "with the large...teeth" and we then see a quick shot of the clothed and buxom young woman. Later, she refers to her as that again but holds out her hands in front of her chest to indicate who and what she's talking about.
  • We see that Giselle is having an affair with an older, married man (no sexual activity, but it's implied).
  • We see Spencer, Betty's husband, kissing another woman (implying an affair).
  • Betty confronts Giselle about her promiscuous ways, asking, "Does he pay you for sex?" and then says that at the rate she's going, she could make a fortune. Betty comments on what the men do after "they've sampled you" and the term "whore" is then used.
  • Betty states that her husband doesn't want or sleep with her.
  • Katherine opens a shower curtain believing Bill to be behind it, but instead finds another man (we see him from the waist up, while she presumably sees everything).
  • SMOKING
  • Giselle smokes more than 5 times, Joan, Connie, Spencer (pipe) and Tommy (cigar) each smoke several times and some miscellaneous characters smoke in several scenes.
  • Katherine tells the girls that she was once engaged to a guy with whom she smoked and got drunk among other things.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Betty has a domineering mother who tells her what to do and think.
  • Giselle states that her parents changed after her father's return from WWII and that they got divorced.
  • Betty isn't happy that her new husband is always gone on business trips. She wants to stay with her mom, but she tells Betty to go back to her home and that this is what she bargained for. Later, Betty states that her husband doesn't want or sleep with her.
  • Betty's mom tells her that there will be no divorce between her and Spencer, but Betty later announces that they will be divorced (after learning he's had an affair).
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • How society viewed the role of women in the 1950s as compared to today.
  • What is art and what makes it good or bad.
  • Nancy states that she loves Lucy (Lucille Ball), "even if she's a communist."
  • Nancy states that Amanda's "companion" (lesbian lover) died in May.
  • Amanda being fired for handing out contraceptives at the school.
  • Betty has a domineering mother who tells her what to do and think.
  • Dunbar sleeps with some of his students (not seen).
  • Katherine confronts President Carr about a finishing school posing as a college and that she thought the school would be turning out leaders and not wives.
  • We hear that Joan eloped.
  • Giselle's apparent affinity for having affairs with older and/or married men.
  • Affairs.
  • The comment that not everything is as it seems.
  • VIOLENCE
  • None.



  • Reviewed December 4, 2003 / Posted December 19, 2003

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