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Mona Lisa Smile

• Director: Mike Newell
• Writer: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
• Release Date: 19 December 2003 (USA)
• MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual content and thematic issues.
• Parents Guide: View content advisory for parents
• Genre: Drama | Romance
• Runtime: 117 min.
• Box Office #s: Here

Cast Highlights
• Julia Roberts
• Julia Stiles
• Maggie Gyllenhaal
• Ginnifer Goodwin
• Marcia Gay Harden
• Dominic West

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.

From the Gallery

Trailer

Trivia

  • Lecture Hall scenes were filmed at Columbia University, which maintains a 50-year-old lecture hall used in many different films.
  • In order to prepare for her role, Julia Roberts observed art history classes at New York University.
  • In order to prepare for their roles, the leads were all put through a finishing school two weeks prior to filming.
  • During the scene in the pool, the girls that can be seen synchronized swimming in the background are the members of the Wheaton College Synchronized Swim Team (in Massachusetts) from the 2002-2003 season.
  • During the dance scene, the a cappella group from Harvard who sang “Istanbul” is a real a cappella group, the Din and Tonics, at Harvard.
  • Producers had originally applied to film at Bryn Mawr College, another one of the Seven Sisters. It is unclear as to why they ultimately went with Wellesley College.

Quotes

Katherine Watson: Since your wedding, you’ve missed six classes, a paper and your midterm.
Betty Warren: I was on my honeymoon and then I had to set up house. What does she expect?
Katherine Watson: Attendance.
Connie Baker: [timidly] Most of the faculty turn their heads when the married students miss a class or two.
Katherine Watson: Well then why not get married as freshman? That way you could graduate without actually ever stepping foot on campus.
Betty Warren: Don’t disregard out traditions just because you’re subversive.
Katherine Watson: Don’t disrespect this class just because you’re married.
Betty Warren: Don’t disrespect me just because you’re not.
Katherine Watson: Come to class, do the work, or I’ll fail you.
Betty Warren: If you fail me, there will be consequences.
Katherine Watson: Are you threatening me?
Betty Warren: I’m educating you.
Katherine Watson: That’s *my* job.

[about the Mona Lisa] Betty Warren: [ironically] Look at this, mother. She’s smiling. Is she happy?
Mrs. Warren: The important thing is not to tell anyone.
Betty Warren: She looks happy, so what does it matter?

[last lines] Betty Warren: [in Betty’s last editorial] Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image.
Taxi Driver: Get the hell out of the way.
Betty Warren: I’ll never forget you.

Betty Warren: Dear Betty, I came to Wellesley because I wanted to make a difference. But to change for others is to lie to yourself. My teacher, Katherine Watson, lived by her own definition and would not compromise that, not even for Wellesley. I dedicate this, my last editorial, to an extraordinary woman, who lived by example and compelled us all to see the world through new eyes. By the time you read this, she’ll be sailing to Europe, where I know she’ll find new walls to break down, and new ideas to replace them with.
[snapshot] Betty Warren: I’ve heard her called a quitter for leaving and aimless wanderer. But not all who wander are aimless, especially those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image. I’ll never forget you.

Betty Warren: [in Betty’s second editorial] Wellesley girls who are married have become quite adept at balancing their obligations. One hears such comments, as – I’m able to baste the chicken with one hand and outline the paper with the other. While our mothers were called to workforce for Lady Liberty. It is our duty- nay, obligation to reclaim our place in the home, bearing the children that will carry our traditions into the future. One must pause to consider why Miss Katherine Watson, instructor in the art history department has decided to declare war on the holy sacrament of marriage. Her subversive and political teachings encourage our Wellesley girls to reject the roles they were born to fill.

Betty Warren: [Betty’s Third Editorial Voice Over] Wellesley girls who are married have become quite adept at balancing their obligations. One hears such comments as, “I’m able to baste the chicken with one hand and outline the paper with the other.” While our mothers were called to the workforce for lady liberty it is our duty, nay, obligation to reclaim our place in the home bearing the children that will carry our traditions into the future. One must pause to consider why; Ms. Katherine Watson, instructor in the art history department, has decided to declare war on the holy sacrament of marriage. Her subversive and political teachings encourage our Wellesley girls to reject the roles they were born to fill.

[first lines] Betty Warren: [voiceover] 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.

Giselle Levy: [in reference to the husband in etiquette class] Whatever you do, don’t put the boss’s wife next to your husband.
Betty Warren: Why not?
Giselle Levy: She’s screwing him.

[Giselle has been secretly seeing a married psychologist] Betty Warren: Does he pay you for sex? I mean, at the rate you’re going, you could make a fortune.
Joan Brandwyn: Betty!
Betty Warren: Everyone thinks so. Do you know what they say? They say you’re a whore. And pretty soon, once they’ve all sampled you, they’ll toss you aside like a used rag.
Joan Brandwyn: Betty, stop! Now!
Betty Warren: The men you love don’t even want you! Your father doesn’t want you!
Giselle Levy: [to Connie] I’m gonna meet you downstairs.
Betty Warren: Professor Dunbar?
Connie Baker: Betty, that’s enough!
Betty Warren: Everyone knows that you hide outside his house! It must be torturous running after a man who doesn’t even care about you. Who’s in love with someone else. Who hates you!
Giselle Levy: Betty…
Betty Warren: He *hates* you!
[Giselle pulls Betty into a hug] Betty Warren: Get off of me!
[Betty struggles, but gives in a sobs on Giselle’s shoulder] Betty Warren: [about her husband] He doesn’t want me!
Giselle Levy: [sympathetically] I know…

Betty Warren: Katherine Watson didn’t come to Wellesley to fit in. She came because she wanted to make a difference.

[Katherine shows the class a painting of a rotting animal] Katherine Watson: “Carcass”, by Soutine, 1925. Is it any good? C’mon, ladies, there’s no wrong answer. There’s also no textbook telling you what to think. It’s not that easy, is it?
Betty Warren: Alright, no. It’s not good. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it art. It’s grotesque.
Connie Baker: Is there a rule against art being grotesque?
Giselle Levy: I think there’s something aggressive about it. And erotic.
Betty Warren: To you, everything is erotic.
Giselle Levy: Everything *is* erotic.
Susan Delacorte: Aren’t there standards?
Betty Warren: Of course there are! Otherwise, a tacky velvet painting could be equated to a Rembrandt!
Connie Baker: Hey, my Uncle Ferdie has two tacky velvet paintings. He loves those clowns.
Betty Warren: There *are* standards! Technique, composition, color, even subject. So, if you’re suggesting that rotted side of meat is art, much less *good* art, then what are we going to learn?
Katherine Watson: Just that. You have outlined our new syllabus, Betty, thank you. What is art? What makes it good or bad, and who decides?

[referring to a childlike drawing of a cow] Katherine Watson: 25 years ago, someone thought this was brilliant.
Betty Warren: Who?
Katherine Watson: My mother. I painted it for her birthday. Next slide. This is my mom. Is it art?
Susan Delacorte: It’s a snapshot.
Katherine Watson: If I told you Ansel Adams had taken it, would that make a difference?
Betty Warren: Art isn’t art until someone says it is.
Katherine Watson: It’s art!
Betty Warren: The right people.
Betty Warren: And who are they?
Giselle Levy: Betty Warren! We’re so lucky we have one of them right here.

Connie Baker: [holding up a diaphragm] This isn’t what I think it is, is it?
Joan Brandwyn: Where’d you get it?
Giselle Levy: From the school nurse.
Betty Warren: It’s against the law!
Giselle Levy: No, honey, it’s a girl’s best friend.
Betty Warren: A certain kind of girl.
Giselle Levy: Meet the last virgin bride.
Betty Warren: Spencer is a gentleman.
Giselle Levy: And even gentlemen have dicks.
Connie Baker: Maybe I’ll get one!
Giselle Levy: What, a dick?
Betty Warren: Don’t be stupid, Connie!
Connie Baker: [hurt] Someone, somewhere, someday might be interested. Just in case, I’ll be prepared.
[Connie leaves, fighting back tears] Joan Brandwyn: Was that necessary?
Betty Warren: I was taught it’s best to speak honestly.
Giselle Levy: You’re a bitch.

Joan Brandwyn: I’ve got a secret to tell you. I got accepted early to Yale Law School.
Betty Warren: To *what*? Why? You don’t want to be a lawyer!
Joan Brandwyn: Maybe I do.
Betty Warren: You won’t switch brands of cold cream without asking me, but you applied to law school?
Joan Brandwyn: On a lark. We never thought I’d get in.
Betty Warren: Who’s ‘we’?
Joan Brandwyn: Miss Watson. She practically filled out my application for me.
Betty Warren: You’ve got to be kidding me. What right does she have? You’re getting married!
Joan Brandwyn: First of all, there’s no ring on this finger. Second, I can do both. I can!
Betty Warren: You are this close to getting you ever wanted. And this close to losing it.

Betty Warren: You don’t believe in withholding, do you?
Katherine Watson: No. I do, however, believe in good manners. But for you, I’ll make an exception.

Betty Warren: Miss Watson, can you help me get in touch with that friend of yours in Greenwich Village?
Mrs. Warren: Oh, what do you need in Greenwich Village?
Betty Warren: An apartment. I filed for a divorce this morning. And since we know I’m not welcome in your house. You remember Giselle Levy? What did you call her? “A New York Kike”, that’s it. Well, we’re going to be room mates.

Betty Warren: My teacher, Katherine Watson, lived by her own definition, and would not compromise that. Not even for Wellesley. I dedicate this, my last editorial, to an extraordinary woman who lived by example and compelled us all to see the world through new eyes. By the time you read this, she’ll be sailing to Europe, where I know she’ll find new walls to break down and new ideas to replace them with. I’ve heard her called a quitter for leaving, an aimless wanderer. But not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition; beyond definition; beyond the image.

Katherine Watson: You can confirm to what other people expect of you, or…
Betty Warren: I know. Be ourselves.