Mona Lisa Smile


Mona Lisa Smile

Written by 
Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal

Director Mike Newell
Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dominic West, Juliet Stevenson, Marcia Gay Harden, John Slattery, Marian Seldes

Category    Career,Organizational Change,Organizational Culture,Women      


Columbia Pictures



Language English,Italian
117 min

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This film is set in America during the 1950s and revolves around a UCLA graduate named Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts), who arrives at the prestigious all-female Wellesley College and through the teachings of Art History, tries to encourage her traditional-minded students to challenge the lives they are expected to lead.

Most of her students (Kirsten Dunst, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Julia Stiles etc.), have basically resigned to the idea that they are destined for marriage once they graduate and nothing more. Watson suggests to her students that they need not conform to female stereotypes and can even aspire to become career professionals.

Some students are more resistant to Watson’s progressive teaching methods than others, who are more than happy to be given the opportunity to think outside the box.

However, her “non-conservative” behaviour, including a relationship with one of the teachers, is quickly frowned upon by the College Directors and she eventually leaves after a year, having been warned that she will lose her job unless she conforms to certain regulations.

With her short-lived presence at the all-female college, she manages to cause a ripple in the steady waters of a society which up until now had vehemently encouraged secrecy and lies, in the name of maintaining the status quo and keeping up appearances.

HR Message
Katherine Watson could be described as the new employee who is given a job at a prestigious organization because of her impressive credentials and is expected to perform with excellence – which generally means that she will abide by the rules, with ease and no resistance whatsoever.

New ideas, alternative methods of teaching, encouraging a break from the status quo (which actually implies that the status quo is outdated…), get her noticed (and admired by some) and the management feels threatened by this.

It just goes to show that even if change is good for one organization, many will resist it because it is something new and therefore its outcome unknown. It takes courage and openmindedness to break tradition, as well as the ability to selfcriticize.

It also shows that the way a new ‘culture’ is introduced to an organization is very important since ideally you want to use the method that will cause least resistance. Once the idea is rejected, you may not get another chance to bring it to the table.

Contributed by: Ianthi Psilogenis