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Katherine Ann Watson has accepted a position teaching art history at the prestigious Wellesley College. Watson is a very modern woman, particularly for the 1950s, and has a passion not only for art but for her students. For the most part, the students all seem to be biding their time, waiting to find the right man to marry. The students are all very bright and Watson feels they are not reaching their potential. Altough a strong bond is formed between teacher and student, Watson's views are incompatible with the dominant culture of the college. Written by
The war story that Bill Dunbar tells during his Italian class is borrowed from the World War I novel "All Quiet On The Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque. See more »
During the convocation assembly at the beginning of the film, President Carr is wearing a gown and tassel that show she has a doctoral degree, but the cap she is wearing would indicate only a masters or bachelors degree. See more »
All her life, she had wanted to teach at Wellesley College. So, when a position opened in the Art History department, she pursued it single-mindedly until she was hired. It was whispered that Katherine Watson, a first-year teacher from Oakland State, made up in brains what she lacked in pedigree. Which was why this bohemian from California was on her way to the most conservative college in the nation.
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The end credits for the prominent cast and crew are set in front of vintage footage and advertisements showing women in the 1940s and 50s. See more »
Another film about a progressive teacher trying to teach her students how to think outside of the box. Fortunately, unlike School of Rock, my views on which were accosted last week, I left Mona Lisa Smile mostly satisfied with what I had seen. No, it's not especially revelatory or surprising. You can more or less guess what's going to happen to each character by the end. But it does leave a little more room for characterization, for slightly unexpected outcomes, and it doesn't telegraph its moments quite so rigidly as the Linklater film. Julia Roberts is an actress about whom I feel nothing; I neither like nor dislike her. I think this is one of her better performances, certainly much better than her Oscar winning role in Erin Brockovich. She plays the progressive art history teacher, who arrives at Welsley to learn that all of her students have already studied the textbook from cover to cover, and can answer any question that might arise from the class's current syllabus. The curriculum and Roberts' superiors are strict in what they want to teach about art, but Roberts veers towards teaching what the textbook will not despite them. The superiors are unhappy with her course, but some of the students are opened up to the experience. Outside of class, Roberts faces as large a challenge. Most of her students have completely resigned to the idea that they are destined for marriage and nothing more. The status quo must be challenged. The students are a nice range of characters. Kirsten Dunst plays the most conservative, who is about to be married when the film opens. She, of course, rejects Roberts' ideals. On the other end of the spectrum is Maggie Gyllenhaal, who is the sexually promiscuous girl who idealizes her teacher. Slightly left of center is Ginnifer Goodwin and right of center Julia Stiles. These four characters are set up very mechanically, of course, but the characters succeed (and this can be said about all of the other characters of the movie, including Roberts', who are all rather mechanical) on the quality of acting. Each of the performers are wonderful. They manage to make you care, which is something that didn't happen with School of Rock, whose performers (with the one exception of Joan Cusack) were adequate or worse. I especially loved Marcia Gay Harden, giving another one of the best performances of 2003, as Roberts' roommate, who teaches etiquette. She's a pathetic, tragicomic image of what some of the girls will become if they insist that the traditional concept of womanhood remain unchanged. The film also boasts exceptional technical qualities. It's simply very well made. 8/10.
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