Wellesley's not smiling at Julia Roberts' film

January 23, 2004

A month after the US release of the movie Mona Lisa Smile , the president of the all-female college in which the film is set has said it is a "distorted and demeaning portrayal" of the campus.

Diana Chapman Walsh, Wellesley College president, conceded that university officials had been given the script in advance, and agreed to allow filming on the campus for ten days in exchange for an undisclosed payment from the production company. But, in response to protests from alumni, she said the finished product, "to a far greater extent than the screenplay we originally read, characterises the college as rigid and hidebound, and the students as rich and spoiled".

The movie is set in the 1950s and stars Julia Roberts as an art-history professor who invites the wrath of administrators by encouraging her students to choose careers over marriage.

"The film attempts to raise genuine questions about women's life choices: whether one must choose between career and family and how to find one's own path when it may conflict with society's expectations or those of parents, professors and friends," Dr Chapman Walsh says in a letter to alumni.

Dr Chapman Walsh told The THES : "Seeing the movie is vastly different from reading the dialogue. I confess I hadn't had much experience with Hollywood or movie screenplays, and the producers tell me now that these differences are a normal part of the production and editing process."

Wellesley spokeswoman Mary Ann Hill said many Wellesley alumni from the 1950s had complained about the film.

Mona Lisa Smile opens in the UK next month.

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