8:00 PM, 31st July, 2004
Mona Lisa Smile is set in a prestigious New England girls' school called Wellesley College and is said to be based on Hillary Clinton's experiences there in the 1960s. Julia Roberts plays a free-spirited art history teacher, Katherine Watson, who finds herself out of place in the conservative ethos of the school. In this establishment, girls are taught homemaking skills and to be good wives and mothers, rather than get the best education. Watson encourages Joan (Stiles) to go to Yale Law School and is attacked for her independent thinking by Betty (Dunst) who is editor of the school's newspaper.
The movie is enjoyable because of its wonderful setting and photography and because of the quality of its acting. It is really strange to see Julia Roberts in a role that isn't glamorous (she wears lots of cardigans), but she plays the part well. Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Kirsten Dunst are also brilliant.
10:19 PM, 31st July, 2004
Under the Tuscan Sun is a delightful and charming movie, peppered with beautiful shots of Tuscany and interesting, likeable characters. Frances (Lane) is devastated when her husband leaves her. In an attempt to help her move on, her best friend Patti (Oh) sends her on a trip to Italy, where - on a whim - she buys a house in Tuscany.
The movie is based on the book of the same name by Frances Myers. There are times when the movie suffers from clich((eacute))s and stereotypes in a way the book doesn't. However, the journey of self-discovery, based on Frances Myers's own experiences, strikes a true-enough chord. The wonderful performance by Diane Lane, struggling with the pain of heartbreak and replacing it with the warmth of friends and community, engages and entertains. Don't be persuaded that it's "just a chick-flick"; it has much more subtlety and style. And the scenery really is beautiful.