Set in 1953, Mona Lisa Smile tells the story of Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts), a new young art history professor at Wellesley College, an all-female campus with a prestigious reputation for academic excellence. Unfortunately for free-minded Berkeley grad Watson, her East Coast teaching stint comes during a less-progressive time that finds most of her students -- among them Betty Warren (Kirsten Dunst), Joan Brandwyn (Julia Stiles), and Giselle Levy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) -- more interested in nabbing a good husband than achieving scholastic and intellectual growth. Watson challenges her students and the Wellesley faculty to think outside of the current mores of the community and redefine what it means to be a success; meanwhile, she tries to come to terms with her own heart's desires. Mona Lisa Smile co-stars Marcia Gay Harden, Juliet Stevenson, and, as Watson's conflicting love interests, Dominic West and John Slattery.
~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide