Mona Lisa.

Film For all its critical savaging (35% at Rotten Tomatoes even now) (ouch), I've a real soft spot for Mona Lisa Smile, the 2003 entry iteration of the inspiring teacher genre, substituting dead poets with (mainly) dead painters. The cast list might make it look like the film version an early noughties Vanity Fair young Hollywood fold out cover (most of them are on 2004 which makes it something of a prognostication).

The college featured, Wellesley, found itself at the centre of some controversy during the filming process, as their students and alumni realised how little the story reflected their own experience; the screenwriters had chosen their college the base their entirely fictional story and there was a concern that their general quite liberal history was going to be overridden with an assumption that at a certain point in their history they were a wife factory.

This led to the president of the college releasing this rather remarkable statement, remarkable because instead of simply backing down and doing the usual, the President explains their decision rationally, calmly and though there's a hint of blaming the Hollywood machine for backing them into a corner, listing all of the positive elements which have come out of the experience:
"Opinion has been ranging widely -- at the College and beyond -- about how effectively the movie conveys its message, how accurately it captures the geist of the Fifties, and how resonant its message is today. Many professional critics have faulted the film for a lack of subtlety; many of us have identified liberties taken with the Wellesley College we know. Yet the film does attempt to raise genuine questions about women's life choices: whether one must choose between career and family and how to find one's own path when it may conflict with society's expectations or those of parents, professors, friends."
In other words, it might not have been necessarily our experience, but it was an experience and worth investigating. Towards the end, the President notes that applications for the college have actually increased since the release of the film. I wonder if, now that the film is on dvd and presumably being watched by later generations of impressionable girls, those applications continue to be in great volume even in 2013.

Some addenda to all of that.  A search on the Wellesley website reveals the following.

A "Rocky Horror-style" showing of the film is a key part of pizza and beer social occasions.

Nora Ephron received  an Alumnae Achievement Award in 2006 and described her dislike of the film.

That it continued to be on the student's minds in 2010 especially as they're falling over in the snow.

No comments:

Post a comment