source: Columbia Pictures

Review: Mona Lisa Smile (2003) **

Randomly clicking movies last night led me to a movie listed as romance and a thumbnail full of women. If you know about Mona Lisa Smile, then you know I’m pretty disappointed.

What begins as a boatload of promising sexual tension with hot college-aged women bullying their hot young woman art professor turns into being mostly about heterosexuality. Being a woman is a prison, college is for the MRS degree, marriage sucks, etc.

Of course all of these things are true: getting married, especially to a ~man, is a fuckin trap. It’s changed since 1953, but some central core of truth remains.

No, what’s weird is making a movie about a women’s college into a movie about heterosexuality with only one (1) perceptible lesbian, who is broomed off-screen promptly by one of the white blonde actresses.

(So it turns out Julia Stiles and Kirsten Dunst in the same movie is too much for me. I can tell you which one is which actress when they’re on screen if I think about it for a minute. But I can’t remember who played which character to save my life! My brain conflates them completely. They’re just some white blonde girl, an eldritch mass of similar casting opportunities, who occupy a similar place in my childhood cinematic life.)

To be clear, the story wouldn’t need to be massively changed to be realistic about the amount of sapphic shenanigans in a women’s college. Heterosexual marriage is and always has been an economic institution – primarily a business partnership – that is expected of most adult humans going back a fair distance, and you’ll find that a solid 80% of gay shit happens between people who are, have been, or will be in a heterosexual marriage. Hello! Bisexual femme here! I am an expert in banging straight women.

But there’s zero chance that all this drama and shouting between girls would have been this low-drama in reality. “Mona Lisa Smile was low drama for girls?” Yes bitch, you heard me. You know how many more fingernails would have come out arguing about their conservative vs liberal ideals if everyone had been fucking the way we know they would be fucking?

Like. Everything between Julia Roberts and her indistinguishable white-blonde students would have gotten so much nastier if things were nasty the way we know they were.

And generally Mona Lisa Smile would have been so much more interesting.

There was a lot here that I really enjoyed watching. It was obviously a *good* movie that knew what it was doing – like remember how they remade Ocean’s 11 with actresses? ha ha I love when they let girls do things the boys do – and Mona Lisa Smile had all the cinematic technique required to be the girl version of Dead Poets Society.

I could see someone having real room in their heart for this flick. I’m not gonna look it up, but I bet it was Oscars bait back in 2002, and the cast is frankly just ridiculous. Aside from indistinguishable white blondes, there’s also Maggie Gyllenhaal, that silver fox from Mad Men, that one guy I recognize from that one thing, and basically all the Known Actors you’d need to do Oscars networking. It’s edited in a melodic way. The actresses served up cunt on a platter. It is pleasing to watch. The story is satisfyingly constructed. I like the visuals.

I’ve just got zero patience for a version of femininity that’s all white straight cis women (+nod for a lesbian). It’s taupe. It’s boring. It’s inaccurate. It’s a wasted opportunity to get these actresses making out for me to discover 21 years later.

(image source: Columbia Pictures)

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