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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.33%
Worth A Look: 11.67%
Average: 6.67%
Pretty Bad: 31.67%
Total Crap46.67%

3 reviews, 42 user ratings

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Mona Lisa Smile
[] Buy posters from this movie
by EricDSnider

"Why the long face, Julia?"
2 stars

You are in for a good time if you go to see “Mona Lisa Smile,” particularly if you enjoy films about cold, catty women who lie constantly. (Don’t worry; what few men there are present are dishonest, too.) If you like the dour, porcelain-faced Julia Stiles, you will be pleased to know she appears just as humorless and grumpy here as she typically does, and 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. Rather than shooting the film for the wide screen, they had to shoot it extra-tall, to accommodate Roberts’ elongated melon.

It might be unprofessional of me to judge an actress solely on her face, but I counter that it is equally unprofessional for a good actress like Julia Roberts to act in such warmed-over cliché-fests as this. I do not mind her gaping, toothy maw when it is the source of strong, intelligent dialogue, but when all that emanates from it is verbal tedium, my mind wanders and I begin to contemplate whether it would be possible to fit both of my hands inside her mouth. (I believe it would. If I ever meet her, I will try.)

Horseface plays Katherine Watson, a “bohemian from California” (we’re told) who, in 1953, gains a position as an art history professor at ultra-conservative Wellesley College. Only girls go here, and all they want to do is kill time before they’re married, at which point they’ll slack off in their studies and start pumping out babies. (I went to Brigham Young University, so this scenario is not altogether foreign to me.) Katherine is appalled and begins whinnying her disapproval however she can, though as a bohemian from California – she went to Berkeley!!!!!!!!!! – there is only so much she can get away with before the administration turns its watchful, dyke-y eye upon her.

This film is a lot like “Dead Poet’s Society,” except crappy. It’s one of those flawed-mentor, you’re-teaching-them-but-they’re-really-teaching-you, see-the-world-through-new-eyes kind of claptraps, with every element of the plot foreseeable even by the dumbest of viewers. Katherine’s generic romance with a caddish professor played by Dominic West barely even tries to be interesting, much less unpredictable.

Making matters worse is the utter unlikability of almost every character. Roberts’ performance is the acting equivalent of sitting at your desk and shuffling papers all day to look busy when in fact you are playing Tetris. She apparently fooled director Mike Newell (“Four Weddings and a Funeral” [1994]), but she’s not fooling me! I know slacking when I see it. Julia Stiles continues her unbroken streak of exclusively playing frigid harpies, and even Kirsten Dunst, for whom I have great personal affection, comes off badly as an attitude-heavy student who gets married and lives to regret it. The only characters I liked were Ginnifer Goodwin as a less-pretty student with a spunky personality, and Marcia Gay Harden as a tamped-down but genuine professor. Everyone else is fake, bitter and unpleasant, if they have even those many attributes; many are simply “types” pasted onto the faces of actresses.

The film was written by the duo of Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal, whose last two projects together were “Planet of the Apes” (2001) and “Mighty Joe Young” (1998). This was their first non-monkey-related film in quite some time, and perhaps they had forgotten how to write for human beings. The women here are either stone-cold man-haters or man-hungry ditzes. Both types exist in life, of course, but the fairer sex has other variations, too, and it might have been well to explore some of them, particularly in a film aimed at female viewers. If women wanted to consume entertainment that takes a dim view of womanhood, they could stay home and watch any reality TV program. Why should they go out and pay for it?

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originally posted: 12/25/03 11:19:56
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User Comments

12/10/08 LM honestly i think the movie is great...people is just trippin. 4 stars
10/08/08 Mona Lisa After seeing this, I'll never smile again. 1 stars
9/03/08 Shaun Wallner Ugg boring!! 1 stars
4/28/08 art A WOMEN"S STORY A NO-NO FOR MEN 1 stars
11/27/05 francis formaran mabara an is2rya kay wara kami paka imod 1 stars
11/11/05 Dan Watched this movie in psych class, good representation of women at the time. DSnider Sucks. 4 stars
8/16/05 Lynn I'm just glad I rented the movie for nothing at the library 2 stars
3/03/05 Kathy ter Plugg Too what they got Kirsten dunced into, along with snouty Julia and pouty Julia! 2 stars
12/09/04 Kristina Williams Julia Roberts IS Skeletor 1 stars
8/11/04 ish i am more beautiful than the movie 3 stars
7/07/04 Margie i wouldn't call it crap, i just hate the fact that i wasted my money on it. 2 stars
7/06/04 Wildcarde1 im not sure who made julia roberts such a big star but...bad, bad dog, no oscar for you 1 stars
6/22/04 T. Maj OK, Julia, you got your stupid Oscar, now leave us alone 1 stars
6/19/04 Denise Duspiva a little slow 4 stars
6/01/04 Nobody What a friggin piece of crap. "Movie" is too kind. 1 stars
5/17/04 intelligent single woman I really liked Julia in this one, she stands up for single women not ruled by men! 4 stars
5/16/04 Idiot's Mouth Finally, Stiles is not cast as "white girl who does black man", but horseface ruined it. 1 stars
5/14/04 earl duron I enjoyed this uplifting film 4 stars
3/26/04 Sarah Does Julia Roberts ever do anything new? This movie wasn't really worth the money. 2 stars
3/12/04 tentay women should be seen equally to men... they are not second to thumb up! 4 stars
3/08/04 Julia Stiles is a lovely flower but possibly should change her name. Stiles always have stigmas attached to them. It comes with the territory. 3 stars
3/06/04 JS elevates this from crap to average Call her porcelain-faced if you will Eric, Julia Stiles is the best part of this movie! 3 stars
3/04/04 Millie Maelstrom Why the long face WHICH Julia, EricDSnider? DEAD POETS' SOCIETY is crappy too, by the way. 2 stars
3/03/04 C'mon Betty White, Steven Seagal is better than that! Any movie with Kirsten Dunst and Julia Stiles should be WAY better than this! Mostly boring 2 stars
1/29/04 f*r*o*s*t*y Roberts is annoying. Gyllenhaal is great. Surprise appearance by Tori Amos! 2 stars
1/25/04 Alan Absolutely terrible, even for a chick flick 1 stars
1/16/04 Debbie Nystrom Snouty Julia & Pouty Julia. What hore could one want? Too bad Kirsten was Dunced into this! 1 stars
1/15/04 Betty White So silly and terribly acted you sometimes think you're watching a Steven Seagal film. 1 stars
1/11/04 Atanu Another chick dung from the house of crap and crappier 1 stars
1/06/04 Chris We've seen this movie before but so what. Roberts is great as is the story. See it. 4 stars
1/05/04 Caiphn Not even worth giving a chance. 1 stars
1/02/04 Jack A wretched movie jammed with cliches, predictable plot lines, and horrible overacting. 1 stars
12/31/03 HELLOWEEN yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn 1 stars
12/28/03 Edler Man, she gots collagen implants for the aging. IT looks real bad and the movie sucks. 1 stars
12/25/03 Betsy Boring, derivitive, predictable, PC 1 stars
12/22/03 sethandbeth UGH!! what is wrong with JR's lips!!! She is so over rated!!! 1 stars
12/21/03 pooman69 this movie is feminist crap!!!!! 1 stars
12/20/03 Suzz one of the most enjoyable films I've seen this year 5 stars
12/19/03 djacosta Beautiful 5 stars
12/13/03 Monster W. Kung Mona Lisa smile? She looks like fuckin' PAC MAN! 1 stars
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  19-Dec-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Mar-2004



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