Julia Roberts plays a 1950s liberal female professor who encounters a few hurdles while trying to pass the same values along to her traditional Wellesley art students. Katherine Ann Watson (Julia Roberts) arrives at Wellesley College in the mid-1950s as a professor of Art History, looking to inspire change in her students. Like many women of the time, most Wellesley girls have one goal after they graduate -- to get married. Professor Watson herself is unmarried and is taken aback by the culture at the small, liberal arts university. Many of her attempts to reform the culture are rebuked, some with disciplinary meetings with college officials.
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There are several supporting characters Katherine touches during her stay. Betty Warren (Kirsten Dunst) is a staunch supporter of traditional family and marriage. She openly rejects Katherine's views throughout most of the film, chiding her for trying to change the women at the school and brazenly skipping class to go on her Honeymoon. As the film progresses, her marriage deteriorates due to her husband's lack of affection and alleged affairs. In the end, she divorces the husband and accepts a spot in law school. Joan Brandwyn (Julia Stiles) is also encouraged by Katherine to pursue a career or more school when she graduates but she firmly stands her ground at the end, insisting she will contribute equally to the world as an educated mother who cares for her children at home. Giselle Levy (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is the portrayal of sexual revolution of the times, boasting about affairs with professors and discreetly sharing the fact the school nurse is offering birth control without the college's approval.
In the end, Katherine's unorthodox teaching methods as well as her personal opinions are too much for the college to handle and she is given the ultimatum of sticking to the syllabus or leaving. She chooses to leave, but not before touching the lives of everyone with a passion for art and educating females.
Best part of story, including ending:
I enjoyed the fact the movie portrayed women being complacent with both traditional and non-traditional roles of the time. Betty Warren, who did nothing but champion marriage, divorces her husband and enrolls in law school. Joan Brandwyn is content with graduating, marrying and starting a family.
Best scene in story:
At the end of the school year, Katherine leaves Wellesley in a car. Shortly after pulling off, a crowd of her former students start chasing her and waving goodbye as she fights back tears. It's an emotional scene that illustrates how much Katherine has touched her students' lives.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked how Katherine pushed the woman to do more than graduate and find a husband. I did not like her assuming that every woman would be miserable and unhappy in the traditional housewife role of the '50s. She may have pushed these progressive beliefs too far on some, a perfect example of this being with Joan Brandwyn.
Fresh from graduating out of UCLA, Katherine Watson (Roberts) is eager to teach art history at the prestigious young women's school west of Boston, Wellesley College, in the fall of 1953. But she runs up against students with mixed expectations -- they have great study habits but expect to do little beyond marry and raise families after school -- and an administration resistant to innovation in the classroom. Betty Warren (Dunst) is snooty old money, Joan Brandwyn (Stiles) somewhat the same but nicer, Giselle Levy (Gyllenhaal) is the outre and sexually active bohemian one, and Connie Baker (Goodwin) is their jolly, overweight tagalong friend. Marcia Gay Harden has a sad role as an fast-aging spinster housemate-professor. This 2003 film, sort of a distaff "Dead Poets Society" or "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," is pleasant enough, but rather lightweight.
The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus