Mona Lisa Smile


Mixed or average reviews - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 40
  2. Negative: 5 out of 40

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Critic Reviews

  1. The New Yorker
    Reviewed by: David Denby
    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]
  2. 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.
  3. Mr. Newell is master of the feel-good ensemble piece whose shallowness is partly masked by the expertise of a high-toned cast.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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."
  7. 50
    The most likely facial expression to be elicited by Mona Lisa Smile is a grimace.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. There's a spark missing, and where it's missing is in Roberts' conscientious but all too reserved performance.
  15. A movie about a maverick ought to be a little daring as well, and Mona Lisa Smile is as safe and predictable as chintz.
  16. Isn't boring, but it is sanctimonious, relentlessly predictable and willfully ignorant of the period it's set in.
  17. From her speech patterns to her body language, Roberts's performance is wrong for the period.
  18. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Maybe Wellesley isn't the only injured party here. Can an audience sue for cruel and edifying punishment?
  19. 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.
  20. Director Mike Newell and screenwriters Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal should have uncorseted their own imaginations. The girls on display are all tightly stereotyped.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. Reviewed by: Kevin Carr
    Could be subtitled “The Parade of Overrated Actresses.”
  26. 40
    It almost takes skill to make this cast dull, but the relentlessly tepid film does it anyway, by never getting the characters straight.
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 71 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 38
  2. Negative: 22 out of 38
  1. Apr 21, 2016
    I'd rather drink lemon juice with razors in it. One of the worst movies I have ever seen. STAY FAR AWAY FROM THIS PIECE OF CRAP!! HOW CANI'd rather drink lemon juice with razors in it. One of the worst movies I have ever seen. STAY FAR AWAY FROM THIS PIECE OF CRAP!! HOW CAN ANYONE LIKE THIS? Full Review »
  2. SandyC.
    May 2, 2006
    Very enjoyable movie with good performances.