Syrupy Film Just Fails to Inspire Us

Article excerpt

Mona Lisa Smile (12a, 119mins)

Drama. Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dominic West, Juliet Stevenson, Marcia Gay Harden, John Slattery, Topher Grace.

Released: March 12 (UK & Ireland)

American college administrator William Arthur Ward once noted: "The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires."

Mona Lisa Smile is a syrupy tale of scholarly ambition about a great teacher who inspires her flock of impressionable young girls to flaunt convention and follow their dreams.

Or, at least, that's the idea.

Recent UCLA graduate Katherine Watson (Roberts) moves from California to leafy New England to take up an art history teaching position at Wellesley College.

It is autumn 1953, a time of post-war reflection, and the campus is steeped in decades of tradition and conformity.

Unlike the other teachers, Katherine encourages her students to think independently and she inspires them to follow their hearts, encouraging her most talented girls like Joan (Stiles) and Giselle (Gyllenhaal) to further their place in the world.

Even deeply shy and introverted Connie (Goodwin) gains the confidence to break through her insecurities by following Ms Watson's example. …