Mixed or average reviews - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 40
  2. Negative: 5 out of 40
  1. 75
    The characters involve us, we sympathize with their dreams and despair of their matrimonial tunnel vision, and at the end we are relieved that we listened to Miss Watson and became the wonderful people who we are today.
  2. 75
    The reliable Mike Newell directs Mona Lisa Smile with such assurance that the important moments are never mawkish or dull, and he encourages the women to act with absolute conviction.
  3. Reviewed by: Sharon Allen Burke
    Director Mike Newell strips away facades and keeps this movie singing to the feel-good ending where everyone learns a life lesson by graduation time, whatever their choice may be.
  4. The most radical thing about the movie, the thing that may make it most appealing to modern audiences, is that the filmmakers say both sides are right.
  5. The movie, with its panorama of emotional epiphanies and its belief in the talent and grace of young women, is nevertheless bracing.
  6. A strangely mixed blessing filled with glossy production values and vibrant supporting performances but suffers mightily from a lack of credibility and the grinding predictability of its plot.
  7. The men here are negligible, but all the actresses are good -- especially Dunst, who shows a previously unrevealed gift for blending cold conservative roots, starchy appearance, forgiveness and unexpected redemption.
  8. 63
    Plays out as little more than a diversion, one that does not truly break any new ground. But it's undeniably interesting and leaves plenty of room for a more thoughtful film about women and education.
  9. First things first: As one of my wise editors noted, no person who can flash as many teeth as Julia Roberts should ever star in a movie called Mona Lisa Smile.
  10. Reviewed by: Anna Smith
    There are some roles Julia Roberts was born to play -- a tart with a heart, say, or a likeable and famous actor -- but a charismatic, inspiring 1950s teacher is not one of them.
  11. For all its flaws, its obvious if irrelevant similarity to "Dead Poets Society," it lets us spend some quality time with some of the finest actresses in American film as they give energetic life to one of the most radically underrepresented minorities in Hollywood: the intelligent woman.
  12. Mr. Newell is master of the feel-good ensemble piece whose shallowness is partly masked by the expertise of a high-toned cast.
  13. 60
    The fight against traditionalism has long been won, so the movie’s indignation feels superfluous, but Mike Newell’s direction is solid, the period décor and costumes are a sombre riot of chintz and pleated skirts, and the movie has an air of measured craft and intelligence. [22 & 29 December 2003, p. 166]
  14. 58
    Still, if it doesn't go down in film history as a key moment in Roberts' career, it might very well be remembered as a breakthrough for one of its trio of rising stars.
  15. Rote characterizations and a trite, even condescending, attitude toward that era's misguided mores robs the film of the satiric punch Todd Haynes delivered in "Far From Heaven."
  16. Roberts brings a sense of personal conviction to her part -- she's quite a feminist herself -- and as much sense of humor as the corny screenplay allows.
  17. A movie about a maverick ought to be a little daring as well, and Mona Lisa Smile is as safe and predictable as chintz.
  18. Isn't boring, but it is sanctimonious, relentlessly predictable and willfully ignorant of the period it's set in.
  19. There's a spark missing, and where it's missing is in Roberts' conscientious but all too reserved performance.
  20. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Rather than being a fascinating exploration of a much more constrained time in our social history, the film simply feels anachronistic.
  21. 50
    The most likely facial expression to be elicited by Mona Lisa Smile is a grimace.
  22. Put simply, Mona Lisa Smile is too much of a stacked deck -- a movie too concerned with ensuring that audiences feel a certain way to risk anything like nuance or interpretation.
  23. 50
    From her speech patterns to her body language, Roberts's performance is wrong for the period.
  24. 50
    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. The minutes drift by pleasurably and mindlessly.
  25. You will leave Mona Lisa Smile with only the slightest hint of the grin every slick studio movie gives you--the grin of reassurance and superiority. But you will not be changed, only out about eight bucks.
  26. Oscillating between a furrowed brow and her trademark horsey smile, Roberts battles the repressed harpies on the faculty and strives to shake her students out of their conformist mind-sets. Dispensing with character development, Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal's lifeless script shunts its caricatures from one predictable plot point to the next.
  27. Reviewed by: Kevin Carr
    Could be subtitled “The Parade of Overrated Actresses.”
  28. There's just no reconciling the film's ambivalent message. Newell hangs a modern sensibility on a supposed period piece, and hangs his film in the process.
  29. Director Mike Newell and screenwriters Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal should have uncorseted their own imaginations. The girls on display are all tightly stereotyped.
  30. 40
    What makes the movie seem crass is its refusal to present (or even to see) more than one side of any given issue. In the logic of Konner and Rosenthal, here abetted by director Mike Newell, you're either a Jackson Pollock or a Norman Rockwell.
  31. 40
    It almost takes skill to make this cast dull, but the relentlessly tepid film does it anyway, by never getting the characters straight.
  32. 40
    Mona Lisa Smile's only mysteries are the result of frenzied corner-cutting as Newell & Co. speed through the last reel, an exhausting cram session of hair-trigger speechifying and identity transformations bordering on the science-fictional.
  33. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Newell, no hack, tries not to milk the cliches shamelessly, and that may be the movie's final undoing. Lacking the courage of its own vulgarity, Mona Lisa Smile is as tepid as old bathwater.
  34. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Maybe Wellesley isn't the only injured party here. Can an audience sue for cruel and edifying punishment?
  35. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    An appealing female cast gives the hollowly formulaic Mona Lisa Smile more dignity than it perhaps deserves, yet it's Julia Roberts in an ill-suited starring role that represents one of the film's chief shortcomings.
  36. As artistic achievements go, Mona Lisa Smile is strictly a paint-by-numbers affair. No shading. Little in the way of perspective. To call it one-dimensional would be an act of charity.
  37. The performances, under Mike Newell's direction, range from conventional (Ms. Roberts) to dreadful, and the script is as shallow as an old Cosmo cover story.
  38. Like the turtleneck cashmere sweaters and girdles that tie down these promising women, the movie is trite and trussed.
  39. 25
    "Irritating" doesn't begin to describe Julia Roberts as Katherine, an art-history prof who arrives at Wellesley in 1953.
  40. It's a gussied-up sorority-of-rising-stars project produced, I fantasize, by baby-boomer studio guys whose younger spouses articulately defend a woman's right to stay home and raise the kids.
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 63 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 38
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 38
  3. Negative: 21 out of 38
  1. Dec 18, 2013
    Esta pelicula me gusto, tuvo drama y romance."Mona Lisa Smile" es una pelicula que tiene poco carisma y que en momentos puede llegar a considerarse aburrida, pero los personajes y el drama intenso hace de esta una buena pelicula. Full Review »