On paper it’s not a bad idea for a film: a critical look at the crushing conformism of post-war American society, in particular the place, or lack thereof, for women in the early 19505. Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal’s script employs as its setting Wellesley College, an East Coast Ivy League institution for girls, and introduces into that place of education and indoctrination a subversive element in the form of a liberated female art teacher recently arrived from the bohemian West Coast. The ensuing conflict of ideologies between the individual and the institution aims to highlight the state of a deeply repressed nation.

That’s all well and good, but when Hollywood gets its hands on such a story and throws at it enough money to produce a ‘prestigious picture’ (ie one with high and glossy production values) with an A-list star attached for reasons of commerce, expectations are subverted and the film becomes a conventional piece of cinema - oh, the irony!

Mona Lisa Smile is predictable from the get go. The fact that it’s Julia Roberts who graduates from UCLA and leaves her older man artist lover to take a teaching post at Wellesley, where she hopes to make a difference, provides immediate and iron-clad insurance that the drama will reach an unrealistic, upbeat conclusion. But, Lord, one would never have guessed just how hideously saccharine the final moments of the film would be - Hollywood has excelled itself.

intelligence-insulting gag-reflex-inducing scene that British director Mike Newell should be ashamed of shooting (he probably is, though no doubt had no choice in filming it).

Furthermore, because Hollywood’s hottest female property is in the driving seat, Mona Lisa Smile suffers badly from becoming a Julia Roberts vehicle. The film’s sub plots, which largely concern a variety of pressures put upon the Wellesley girls to confirm (ie become a

V cliched, see me after class

housewife), are sidelined so that the presence of impressive younger talents such as Kirsten Dunst, Julia Styles and Maggie Gyllenhaal is muted. Finally, as if this prestigious picture wasn’t predicable enough, the story has been filmed before, only with boys. Mona Lisa Smile might well have been called Dead Artists' Society. Or, Unsatisfactory, Could Do Much, Much Better. (Miles Fielder) I General release from Fri 72 Mar;

At the end there’s a fully disingenuous, audience


(15) 103min 00

Films that :rttersperse two or more stories suc" as Short Cuts. Pulp Fiction, and last year's excellent kiddie flick Holes can work well with a little chut/pah and that ever elusive rat the movres at leastl duality imagination. But when the link is as tenuous as. say. the bellboy in Four Rooms. these films are invariably bad. Unfortunately Leo falls into this categow because the link between the two tales is more predictable than a Celtrc Victory and duller than a grey day in Wick.

The first story concerns Stephen lJoseph Fiennesi an ex- con released on parole who is forced to take a )0D at a hotel to Drove he can reintegrate back into society. In prison Stephen

32 THE LIST (1 '8 Mar MIC":

Soporific Joycian tales

has been working away on a series of books that he insists cannot be published until he finishes the final chapter.

The second tale takes place a generation earlier and tells the story of how Mary (Elisabeth Shuel. a frustrated hetisewrfe. names her son Leopold Bloom after a character she despises in James Jche‘s Ulysses. YOU are clearly asking for trouble if you rely heavrly on referencmg a classic text to link stories in the first place. but Leo is shameless. obvious and not above a bit of looting between all that loitering in hotel entryways. If you know Ulysses. you WI“ guess where this is going within minutes. Even if you don't. there are still no surprises. iKaleem Aftabl I Selected release from Fri 72 Mar.


Another rehash of a Hollywood staple diet ias d:splayed in Babes in Arms, F/ashdance. Dirty Dancing and even Muscle Beach Par'h/i. where a person or band of iiidiyiduals find that together they can overcome adversity . . . through the magic of dance. This time around the music happens to be hip hop and the name of game seems to be about teenagers waggling their pert butts to within iust this side of obscene.

Honey iJennifer Albal is a dance instructor who takes pity on a group of tinderprivileged breakdancing kids. The mean city inspectors want to close down the centre where Honey works but as fate will have it there is an empty church that can be taken over for a night to put on a show that will highlight the value of the centre to the community. Honey also has her own demons to overcome when she discovers that video producer Michael Ellis lDaVid Moscow) has an interest in her performing talents. but what is his real motivation?

Alba has clearly spent more time in the gym than in acting classes since berng on the hit US TV show Dark Angel, given that the orin impressive things about her performance are her abdominal muscles. In fact her midriff and the dance sequences that feature LiI' Romeo and Missy Misdemeanour Elliot are the only bright spots in this stale movie aimed at the pre—teen market. Honey should really be avoided rf your age is bigger than the size of your ballet shoes. iKaleem Aftabi I General release from Fri 5 Mar

Flashdance with a hip hop honey