Mona Lisa Smile

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Mona Lisa Smile is a 2003 film about a free-thinking art professor who teaches conservative 1950s Wellesley girls to question their traditional social roles.

Directed by Mike Newell. Written by Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal.
In a world that told them how to think, she showed them how to live.taglines

Katherine Watson[edit]

  • I thought that I was headed to a place that would turn out tomorrow's leaders, not their wives.
  • Look beyond the paint. Let us try to open our minds to a new idea.
  • I don't think I can go a year without a hot plate.
  • This is all they're really doing here, isn't it? They're just biding time until SOMEBODY proposes!
  • A girdle to set you free. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!

Betty Warren[edit]

  • [in her last editorial] Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image.
  • Dear Betty, I came to Wellesley because I wanted to make a difference. But to change for others is to lie to yourself. My teacher, Katherine Watson, lived by her own definition and would not compromise that, not even for Wellesley. I dedicate this, my last editorial, to an extraordinary woman, who lived by example and compelled us all to see the world through new eyes. By the time you read this, she'll be sailing to Europe, where I know she'll find new walls to break down, and new ideas to replace them with.
  • I've heard her called a quitter for leaving and aimless wanderer. But not all who wander are aimless, especially those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image. I'll never forget you.
  • [in her second editorial] Wellesley girls who are married have become quite adept at balancing their obligations. One hears such comments, as - I'm able to baste the chicken with one hand and outline the paper with the other. While our mothers were called to workforce for Lady Liberty. It is our duty- nay, obligation to reclaim our place in the home, bearing the children that will carry our traditions into the future. One must pause to consider why Miss Katherine Watson, instructor in the art history department has decided to declare war on the holy sacrament of marriage. Her subversive and political teachings encourage our Wellesley girls to reject the roles they were born to fill.
  • Does he pay you... for sex? I mean at the rate you're going, you could make a fortune.

Bill Dunbar[edit]

  • [In reference to Betty's future in laws] Did you ever hear the phrase "Keeping up with the Jones'" [points to the Jones] Mr. and Mrs. Jones. The actual historic family they named the phrase after.


Betty Warren: Don't disregard our traditions just because you're subversive.
Katherine Watson: [becomes angry and walks to Betty] Don't disrespect this class just because you're married.
Betty Warren: Don't disrespect me just because you're not.
Katherine Watson: Come to class, do the work, or I'll fail you.
Betty Warren: If you fail me, there will be consequences.
Katherine Watson: Are you threatening me?
Betty Warren: I'm educating you.
Katherine Watson: That's my job.

Betty Warren: She's smiling. Is she happy?
Mrs. Warren: The important thing is not to tell anyone.
Betty Warren: She looks happy. So, what does it matter?
Mrs. Warren: Don't wash your dirty laundry in public.

Joan Brandwyn: It was my choice. Not to go. He would have supported it.
Katherine Watson: But you don't have to choose.
Joan Brandwyn: No, I have to. I want a home; I want a family, that's not something I'll sacrifice.
Katherine Watson: No-one's asking you to sacrifice that, Joan, I just want you to understand you can do both.
Joan Brandwyn: Do you think I'll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?
Katherine Watson: Yes, I'm afraid that you will.
Joan Brandwyn: Not as much as I regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I'm doing and it doesn't make me any less smart. [Katherine looks down] This must seem terrible to you.
Katherine Watson: I didn't say that.
Joan Brandwyn: Sure you did. You always do. You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don't. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You're the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want.
Katherine Watson: [hugs Joan] Congratulations. Be happy.

Charlie Stewart: My parents say my future is right on the horizon.
Connie Baker: Tell them the horizon is an imaginary line that recedes as you approach it.

Betty Warren: [voiceover] All her life, she had wanted to teach at Wellesley College. So, when a position opened in the Art History department, she pursued it single-mindedly until she was hired. It was whispered that Katherine Watson, a first-year teacher from Oakland State, made up in brains what she lacked in pedigree. Which was why this bohemian from California was on her way to the most conservative college in the nation.

Staunton's Secretary: I was in California once. How do you get any work done with all that sunshine?
Katherine Watson: We tan in class.

Giselle Levy: [in reference to the husband in etiquette class] Whatever you do, don't put the boss's wife next to your husband.
Betty Warren: Why not?
Giselle Levy: She's screwing him.

Joan: And?
Connie: And, it was perfect, romantic, we stayed up all night, talking.
Joan: [to Giselle] You're late, what happened to Sunday brunch?
Giselle: We stayed up all night, too. Not talking.
Connie: The psychoanalyst again.
Giselle: Divine exhaustion.

Katherine Watson: [about Betty's wedding] This is quite the event. I'm surprised I was invited.
Bill Dunbar: Well, look around you. [beat] Who wasn't?

Katherine Watson: Slide. Contemporary art.
Connie Baker: Now that's just an advertisement.
Katherine Watson: Quiet! Today you just listen. What will the future scholars see when they study us? A portrait of woman today? There you are ladies. The perfect likeness of a Wellesley graduate, Magna Cum Laude doing exactly what she was trained to do. Slide. A Rhodes scholar. I wonder is she reciting Chaucer while she presses her husband's shirts. Slide. Heh, now you physics major's can calculate the mass and volume of every meat loaf you ever make. Slide. A girdle to set you free! WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! What does that mean? What does it mean? I give up. You win. The smartest women in the country... I didn't realize that by demanding excellence I would be challenging. What did it say? [walks over to student's desk and picks up newspaper] What did it say? Um, the roles you were born to fill. [looks up at Betty] Is that right? the roles you were born to fill? It's, uh, it's my mistake. Class dismissed. [drops paper and walks out of classroom]

Katherine Watson: [looking over Joan's file] Pre-law? Well... have you decided which law school you're going to?
Joan Brandwyn: Well, I haven't really thought much about it. After Wellesley, I plan on getting married.
Katherine Watson: And then what?
Joan Brandwyn: [confused] And then... I'll be married.
[After Katherine presses her, Joan finally admits she wants to attend Yale University to study law]

Mrs. Warren: Elizabeth, I don't see Spencer.
Betty Warren: Excuse me, Mother. [to Katherine] Ms. Watson, can you help me get in touch with your friend at Greenwich Village?
Mrs. Warren: [rudely pulls her to the side] What do you need at Greenwich Village?
Betty Warren: An apartment. I filed for divorce and since you know I'm not welcome in your house. You remember Giselle Levy. What did you call her? A New York kike, that's it. Well, she and I are going to be roommates.
Giselle Levy: Hi. [going to Betty] Are you ready?
Betty Warren: Yeah.
[Betty leaves with Giselle to reunite with Katherine. After watching them leave, Mrs. Warren regrets how she's mistreated Betty in refusing to help her out when she was facing marital problems with Spencer and even Giselle for insulting her]
Katherine Watson: You okay? [Betty nods] Greenwich Village.
Betty Warren: For a while. Then who knows, maybe law school. Maybe Yale.
Katherine Watson: [proud of Betty] Well, I wouldn't go up against you in any court, anywhere.


  • In a world that told them how to think, she showed them how to live.
  • They had everything. She showed them more.


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