Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: PG-13 for adult situations
Run Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes
The weighty issues of art criticism vie with the meatier ramifications of matters of the heart in this mixed bag of a romantic drama.
art history professor Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts) isn’t prepared for this
archaic measuring stick when she lands on
Watson’s History of Art 100 class is a sensation. The girls respond to her intellectual challenges and her bohemian spin on painting and sculpture with scholarly gusto. Heady with success, Watson believes she’s making a difference and proceeds to challenge decades of tradition.
You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. So discovers Watson when she mentors brilliant standout Joan Brandwyn (Julia Stiles) by encouraging her application to Yale Law School, repelled by the notion of a Magna Cum Laude education wasted on pressing hubby’s shirts or preparing the perfect meat loaf.
isn’t centered solely on Watson and her academic tribulations. With a silver spoon lodged firmly in her
mouth, Betty Warren (Kirsten Dunst) rails against the concept of change by
marrying her Ivy League beau, only to discover that he’s a cheating cad. Giselle Levy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) endures an
illicit on-again, off-again affair with a handsome
Mona Lisa is a bit of a muddle; comprised of one too many twists and turns. Its tidy conclusion belies the fact that the film doesn’t know what it wants to be – serious drama, thorny romance, or a searing commentary on the changing times.
no-compromises attitude is well-suited to the role, and the supporting cast
delivers a satisfying measure of enthusiasm.
Stiles, Dunst, and Marcia Gay Harden (as a prissy elocution and poise
instructor) are rock-solid, but Gyllenhaal steals the show, shining in a subtly
underdeveloped role as the class scoundrel.