Daily Chick Flick: Mona Lisa Smile  

Only once this month have I gone out of my way to add an especially bad movie to the review list, and even then I didn't realize at the time just how bad that one would turn out to be. Feel free to call me on all the other trash I've reviewed, but only with that one did I go into it knowing it might possibly be the worst film I would ever watch. It's pretty clear how that one turned out. Regardless, I'm going to double my efforts to try and find some quality chick flicks for the next few days, before descending into a weekend of madness.

I was assured that today's movie was a winner, despite having Julia Roberts in it. Don't misunderstand; there's no personal vendetta against Julia Roberts going on here. Her good looks are obvious, and although she hardly seems like she'd be annoying in person, I can't say that I've ever enjoyed a single movie she starred in. I only kind-of sort-of liked Ocean's 11, and that had nothing to do with her. But I must focus. Today's film, Mona Lisa Smile, was her one shot at redemption with me. (Spoiler: it bombed!)

Now finally, a premise I can get behind. A college cleverly disguised as a finishing school for young women. It makes plain sense when you begin to see the huge amount of overlap in their schooling. Physics classes are important, especially when it comes to knowing the proper amount of time to steam your husband's pants for. Mathematics? Why how else would you ever learn the best way to seat people at your next cocktail party?

Then here comes Julia Roberts, strolling into this perfect setup, only to bring with her a holier-than-thou attitude awkwardly hiding under the guise of "free will." She's a rule-breaker, a game-changer, and by all rights shouldn't have even been invited to teach at this school. I bet that by the end of the film you'd expect her to have impacted the lives of so many, to have steered them away from dark waters and into the open seas of possibility. Well you sir would be dead wrong, though you've stumbled onto the one good thing about this movie in my eyes. Roberts' character busted her ass throughout, and all for nothing. The majority of the girls she tried to manipulate into carrying her bohemian ideals were in almost no way affected by it. Not to mention the fact that Roberts not only ran away from a challenge in the final few moments, but she was decidedly the same emotional cripple -- if not more so -- than we saw at the onset of this show. Part of me likes to think that the amazing trip to Europe she spoke so fondly of as she was leaving the school turned out to be a short trip to Cleveland, where she would later hang herself from the rafter of a rented studio apartment.

You can try to twist the wickedly anti-climactic reverse arc of Mona Lisa Smile any way you wish, but I know what giving up looks like when I see it. After doing a bit of sleuthing, I discovered that the director of this film, Mike Newell, signed a deal to direct the third Harry Potter movie right around the time production wrapped on Mona Lisa Smile. After he found out it must have been like shooting a soap opera on that movie set. Every first take is golden. No re-shoots. Record editing times. Forgot to film a pivotal final scene? No biggie; re-work the ending so half the characters don't get any closure and instead decide to just be cool with it. I'd be in a hurry to offload this pointless a movie to get in line for a piece of Harry Potter too. 3 1/2 pink tacos. A chick flick for sure, but it lost a lot of taco cred thanks to Maggie Gyllenhaal's special brand of creepiness.


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