Movie Review: “Mona Lisa Smile”

Directed By Mike Newell Written By Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal Produced By Richard Barrata (co-producer) Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas (producer) Joe Roth (executive producer) Paul Schiff (producer) Deborah Schindler (producer) Original Music By Rachel Portman Cinematography By Anastas N. Michos Film Editing By Mick Audsley The Cast Julia Roberts as Katherine Ann Watson Marcia Gay Harden as Nancy Abbey Ginnifer Goodwin as Connie Baker Kirsten Dunst as Betty Warren Juliet Stevenson as Amanda Armstrong Julia Stiles as Joan Brandwyn Dominic West as Bill Dunbar Maggie Gyllenhaal as Giselle Levy

Summary Of The Movie In Mona Lisa Smile, Julia Roberts leads an all-star cast of prominent young actresses including Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal and newcomer Ginnifer Goodwin, in a story of women struggling to define themselves in a world that has already defined them. Katherine Watson (Roberts) travels from California to the New England campus of Wellesley College, in the fall of 1953, to teach art history. In the post-war era, Katherine expects that her students, the best and the brightest in the country, will take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

Soon after her arrival, however, Katherine discovers that the environment at the prestigious institution is steeped in conformity. According to their poise and elocution, teacher Nancy Abbey (Marcia Gay Harden), an engagement ring on a young woman’s finger is considered a bigger prize than a well-rounded education. When Katherine encourages her students to think independently, she runs afoul of the more conservative faculty and alumni, including one of her students, the upper crust Betty Warren (Dunst).

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The recently married, Betty becomes a formidable adversary when Katherine persuades her best friend, Joan Brandwyn (Stiles), to apply to Yale Law School – even as Joan is awaiting a proposal of marriage from her boyfriend. For the smart and provocative Giselle Levy (Gyllenhaal), Katherine becomes a much-needed role model and mentor. The sweet and shy Connie Baker (Goodwin) also draws courage from Katherine’s example and gains the confidence to break through her insecurities. In a world that told them how to live, Katherine teaches them how to think for themselves.

Through her students’ trials to find their own way, Katherine learns to chart a different course for herself as well. Review Of The Movie World War II had been the first time in history when women were told they could do a man’s job. They took off their corsets and took over the factories. Then, after the war, they were re-corseted with clear roles as housewives who supported their husbands and raised their children. On the surface it all seemed fine, but underneath the seeds were planted for the next generation.

Mona Lisa Smile is an exploration of a time and place, after the war, where rebellion and individuality were very much frowned upon, yet the seeds of change had already taken root. The protagonist of the motion picture, Katherine Watson (played by Julia Roberts), is shown to be one of the most brawny, independent and liberal thinkers of her time. Settled in a time frame, where marriage was the whole and soul purpose of the existence of a woman, Katherine is seen to break those bonds and live on her own terms. She, just like any another girl, was also engaged to marry at the age of 18.

However, after Pearl Harbor, she and her fiance realized that both of them had changed for good and called it quits, after which, Katherine went to L. A for graduation, and turned out to be an art history professor. She embodied the best kind of spirit for a teacher, one that allows individuality and exploration of our personal strengths. Though her students at first, regard her a spinster for being over the age of 30 and unmarried, Katherine feels comfortable with her decision which some of the young women find intimidating and others, empowering.

The daughter of a Wellesley alumna who is as involved in the college as she is in her daughter’s life, Betty, regards Katherine’s challenge to the status quo almost as a personal affront. In the very beginning of the movie we see Betty being just horrible and condescending to everyone around her. Later, in the movie, you come across her mother, a formidable and intimidating woman, and you see why Betty turned out that way. When Betty’s illusions are shattered and her ‘perfect’ marriage is threatened, however, her cold exterior quickly thaws.

All her life has been shaped by her mother and she believes that once she gets married everything will be perfect. But she doesn’t love her husband and neither does he love her. It’s just a planned affair. She pretends to be happy and puts on a smile. Finally, you see her break down. Ultimately, it’s Katherine who gives her the courage to be herself and fight her personal vendetta. That’s essentially what the movie is about, being true to yourself and becoming the person you want to be. Betty’s journey is her inner battle between image and truth.

She fights Katherine’s lessons and her presence at first only because, if Katherine is right, then her life is a sham. While she hails from the same social background as Betty, her roommate and class valedictorian Joan Brandwyn has a completely different reaction to intellectual challenges presented by her art history teacher. Like the other girls at Wellesley she knows how to recite and regurgitate information. She’s a great student, but she’s a textbook great student. Then Katherine comes along and tells her to think for herself and that’s really seductive to Joan.

She is about to be engaged, but with Katherine’s encouragement, she decides to apply to law school anyway. Joan is the woman, Katherine decides, who has the most potential for change, so she devotes her energies to making sure that Joan recognizes that she has a choice. Once Joan chooses, Katherine needs to learn to respect her choice. Giselle Levy is a sophisticated student who shocks her fellow students by having numerous affairs at a time when such behavior was considered scandalous. When Katherine comes to teach at Wellesley, Giselle is fascinated.

She has been desperate for some kind of validation for her unorthodox feelings and here is Katherine who acknowledges her difference and says it’s okay. Giselle’s essential problem is not her behavior, but the judgment that’s placed on it by her peers and society at large. Giselle is pretty in-your-face and she doesn’t know why everybody is making such a big fuss that she sleeps with more than one man. All she’s saying is that you should eat food if it tastes good, dance if you like the beat and have sex if you want to have sex.

Now, some people might say Giselle’s broken or unhappy, or that she’s overcompensating for something, but I tried not to judge her while watching the movie. Though she has many advantages in life, Connie is plagued by insecurities. She thinks she doesn’t have beauty, or talent, or smarts. All she’s got are these other girls, and that is so important to her that she allows herself to be their punching bag. Yet, Connie possesses strong attributes, like her appreciation for the possibilities of love as well as her talent at playing the cello.

The cello is Connie’s form of expression, the only form of beauty she’s ever been able to associate herself with. Through Katherine, Connie gains confidence and opens herself up, for the first time, to the possibility of romance. Suddenly love becomes an option for her and not just a dream. And that sort of power enables her to put herself first for once. Like the other girls, she undergoes a real change. Connie realizes she doesn’t have to go out and become Joan of Arc in order to be important in her own life.

Nancy Abbey teaches speech, elocution and poise at Wellesley. Nancy is trying very hard to be representative of what she thinks a woman should be, which is ‘simply lovely. ‘ There is a gentleness and grace about her manners and it’s a shame we’ve lost that sense of poise. But Nancy also has a turbulent underbelly caused by the repression of the times. It’s poignant that Nancy chooses to remain at home, a spinster, because society’s judgment about her age makes her feel it’s too late for her to go out and risk something different.

Mona Lisa Smile is a real mirror of the period and a tribute to the Wellesley women who were the pioneers in terms of going out and forging paths and shoving their way into businesses that didn’t want them. They were the generation who went out into the world and made a change. Throughout the movie, Katherine tries her best to empower women around her and to break the bonds that bind these intellectuals. The movie follows the journey of change in every individual and talks about the struggle of the individual – male or female.

Everyone is looking to find their proper place in life, where they can serve the most and be at their best. The movie doesn’t tell us what to think or it doesn’t distinguish right from wrong; instead, it paints a depiction of both sides of the story and states you can do both – have a career of your choice and get married – albeit doing it a little unsubtle at times. One of the things you realize while watching the movie is the sensitivity depicted in it. By the end of the movie, you realize that success may not mean the same thing to other people as it does to you.

For a few, having a family, being able to manage your household and having dinner ready by 5 is a huge success; while for others, success could mean turning out as lawyers, doctors, etc. We realize that as Catherine tenaciously went about her business making a difference in the lives of her students and the people around her, she made a difference in her own life just as well. Her journey as a teacher was a part of her formation. We cannot ‘make a difference’ in the lives of others without impacting our own. There is an ongoing dialectic that propels us into action for others, but it undoubtedly is action for ourselves as well.

It is only in the end of the movie, that we realize that Catherine herself lives in the confines of her own biases and disregards. That is what changes about her ultimately and she makes peace with the traditionalists around her and accepts that some women will always be happier in families rather than in themselves, but also paves the path for women who wanted so much more than a family. Throughout the movie you see brilliant 1950 based sets, cathedrals and brilliant locations. The cinematography of this movie is quite fine as its simplicity is its brilliance as is the background score.

The original work of Rachel Portman is outstanding as the theme of Mona Lisa Smile is quite addictive. The cast, crew and director, according to me, have done a splendid job with this motion picture. Though this movie has been thoroughly criticized and been compared to the old movie, the deadly poets, I am still very much of the opinion that this movie is one of its kind. It is a movie that truly moved me and which made me appreciate the fact that I was born in the 21st century where every woman thinks of herself as an individual first and then as a daughter, mother, wife, etc.

Movie Review: A Fond Kiss

Fond Kiss Movie review by Ahed El-Najar Ae Fond Kiss is a romantic drama, directed by Ken Loach in 2004. The movie was filmed in Pollokshields, which is a district in the south side of Glasgow. Cross cultural romance, social difference and racial discrimination are three words which describe the theme of the movie very good. The movie opens with Casim’s sister Tahara, which is being chased around the school. Students are calling her bad names because of her cultural background. Tahara get so upset that she starts chasing the boys in anger. Casim follows her around the school, trying to control her.

She chases them into a music classroom, where Roisin is the teacher. Tahara manages to break a guitar before she leaves. Here is where Casim meets Rosin for the first time. He feels a bit guilty for the guitar, so he buys a new one for her. He also offers her a ride home, because she lives on the other side of town. Both Casim and Roisin are presented as two very nice persons. They work different places and share a lot of interests. Casim is a DJ at a nightclub with his closest friend Hamid. Their plan is to save up money for their own club. Roisin is a music teacher at a Catholic school.

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She is a very good teacher, and the students seem to like her a lot, so does The headmaster . Their love for each other grows very fast. It doesn’t take a long time before their a couple. The only difference for them is their cultural background. Casim comes from a family with strong faith for the Muslim religion. His parents are planning a marriage between him and his first cousin named Jasmine. His father is also preparing for their family, so he enlarges their home. In the beginning his family thinks that Casim is ready for the marriage. But what really happens is that he goes out with Roisin.

They have a secret relationship, and Roisin thinks that what they do is perfectly fine. There is nothing wrong with what they do. They are in love, so they stay together. But Casim’s faith is very strict. In his case, Casim is not allowed to go out with white girls. He has to get married with someone that his parents select for him. It is perfectly clear that this is a difficult situation, because every time Roisin asks to see Casim’s family he says no. He tells her that it is not inappropriate for her to meet them. She feels that this is bad, because she wants to see how his family is.

Roisin does not have any family, her parents died when she was young. Casim does not care very much about this, even though you can see fear in his eyes. He is afraid to tell his family about his relationship with Roisin. His girlfriend does not know about how difficult it is for him. All along his family is arranging the marriage, and Casim does not tell this to Roisin. He even tells her to knock down when they drive at places where his family work or live, because he is afraid to be seen with her. In the theory Casim is going to marry someone he does not want to marry.

But his secret gets revealed to Roisin when they are in Spain on holiday. He tells her that he has not spoken with his family about his situation, and that his family expects him to marry Jasmine. When Roisin hear this, she got sad and angry. Casim got very upset as well, and told Roisin that he was sorry. But it does not help in the beginning. But when Casim tells Roisin that he does not want to marry Jasmine, and that he is going to talk with his parents, her mood gets better. As the time goes on their relationship is still a secret for casim’s parents and family.

Even though he promised to talk with his parents, he chooses not to do so. So the relationship between the two becomes weaker and weaker. They argue a lot, and they are very unsure on what to do. But things get even worse for the couple. Roisin gets an offer which includes her, a full time job at the Catholic school. But she has to ask the parish priest for permission. He does not accept because she has sex outside the marriage. He is even rasist and dislike Muslims, because he asks her what kind of man she had sex with “is he a kind of muhammedman”.

The headmaster at the school does not care about this in the beginning, but he has to fire her unwillingly. If he wouldn’t fire her, he would be in a lot of trouble. This means that Roisin has to get a new job at a school which is not Catholic. When things couldn’t possibly be any worse, other people get affected by their love. Casim’s older sister Rukhsana is supposed to marry someone she love, but he does not want her. That is all because of Casim’s dirty actions toward their faith. To top it all, Casim tell his parents how he feel.

He tells them that Roisin is his true love, and that he will stay with her forever. His parents get very upset, and his father tries to make him leave her. But Casim made up his mind; he chooses to stay with his beloved Roisin. I liked the movie pretty much. The plot and acting was very successful, and the theme was very strong and sad in one way. The ending was both great and sad, some kind of happy ending when they meet again in the end. Casim and Roisin finds each other with the power of love, but Casim’s family get ruined in one way. I also liked the music chose for the movie.

The songs Ae fond kiss and strange fruit are two songs which shows great parallels to the movie itself. I did understand the movie pretty well as well, because I am a Muslim and know how the situation is. Though I am happy my parent’s faith for the Muslim Religion is not that strong, that differs between people. This review should had been sent to you for long time ago, but the day I fall in the motorcycle accident was the date for this review, I totally forgotten about it, perhaps my mind got a bit broken by the accident . I apologize . Yours Ahed

Helpful Tips When Camping in the ‘Land Down Under’

Starry nights, cosy bonfires, melted marshmallows, howling of the wolves, bright moon—these are just some of the things that make sleeping outdoors in a tent thrilling. And no matter how many times you have gone camping, there is always something new and different in each place you visit. Thus, if camping in the UK has left you wanting a more exciting adventure, explore Australia.


A trip to this place allows you to discover a completely new environment. Moreover, it is a great place to put your survival skills to the test. But of course, considering that it will be your first time, it is important to be well prepared for the trip. With that said, here are some things you need to do in order to enjoy the great Australian outdoors for the first time.


– Plan the overseas travel carefully. First, make a checklist of the things you need to bring for the trip. Include enough clothing, camping equipment, a map, and other essentials. Second, know where you will go. Search the Web for information about campsites around the continent. Third, consider your mode of transportation. If you are going far south, then consider looking for a campervan rental in Tasmania, for example, so that travelling to your destination will be convenient.


– The Australian outdoor is filled with wildlife. Thus, store your food in boxes or containers so as not to attract them. Keep them in the van or inside the tent to prevent the prying noses of some animals away.


– Camping under the stars with a bonfire to roast marshmallows is certainly fun and romantic. However, know about the fire restrictions in camping grounds before lighting a match. To have full guidance, check with the area’s local authorities to avoid any forest fire, which is quite common during the dry season. Also, when you leave the site, remember to extinguish the embers with water, even if you are just going swimming at a nearby lake.


– It is easy to get lost when you are in an unfamiliar territory but you can avoid this by having a Global Positioning System or GPS device. This way, you will reach your destination safely and timely. Knowing which way to go helps you reach camp well before the sun sets, enough time to prepare dinner or set up your tent.


Are these ideas helpful enough?


Camping in Scotland, with the Dunnottar Castle as your view, was certainly exciting. How much more when you are in the ‘Land Down Under’ where the scenery is exquisite? Indeed, the experiences you will gain from the Australian wild will add more stories to your list of unforgettable adventures.