You may remember, back in the day, a motion-flick arrived by the
name of
Dead Poets Society, all about a strict boarding school,
and a communist insurrectionary coming in for to shake things up
a bit, teach the students all about life, passion, poetry and so
on. What transpired was that folks just couldn’t get enough of
it. “Uplifting”, folks said. “Made me feel like as if I was a
new-born child, instead of the filthy skag-riddled hag I truly
am”, said some other critics. “Moved me to weep blood from out
my ears”, was, I believe, Variety’s take on it all.

Like most folks,
The Duke loved Dead Poets Society. For one
thing, it was a Peter Weir flick, and in case you didn’t know,
Weir has never even once thought about making a bad film. I
think one time he almost started musing on the notion, but then
someone shoved
The Truman Show in his face and he forgot all
about it. Peter Weir just doesn’t make bad pictures. Maybe if
you were feeling especially pernickety, you could bring up
, but most likely folks would say about go fuck yourself,
and sit down with
The Cars That Ate Paris or Picnic At Hanging
or the one where Mel Gibson is a soldier. Gladioli or
whatever it was.

For all its triumphs, though,
Dead Poets Society was lacking in
one crucial area. To wit; Kirsten Dunst didn’t show up in one
solitary fucking scene. Weir might say about “But come on
, she was only seven years old!”, but I don’t buy that shit
for a second. I saw
Get Over It, Weir, I know how well Kirsten
can play a teenager. You just didn’t think for a damn second is
all that went wrong.

Thank sweet fuck, though, that Mike Newell also recognised this
fault in the film about Robin Williams does funny voices and
forces children to read about death and misery whilst sitting in
a cave. “Get to that bastard cave or so help me God I’ll fuck
you upside the face with a banjo” was one of the much-quoted
inspirational lines.

Newell probably noted how, really, had Kirsten been in
Poets Society
, most likely no-one would even have spotted the
Williams banter or the bit where the skinny tall fella puts on a
Jesus crown and shoots himself in slow-motion. Nobody would even
have noticed, not when there’s the chance that Kirsten might do
a wee smile sometime shortly.  

What Newell went ahead and did, was to make his own version of
Dead Poets Society, taking note of Weir’s gaping flaw, and
fixing it right the hell up. By way of restoring the
equilibrium, he adds some of his own flaws to the picture, like
a fucking horrible bit at the end with bicycles, that the
universe might carry-on in the manner it was doing before he
filmed a frame.

Mona Lisa Smile is a wonderful slab of film, is what it
is. There are plenty of reasons for this, but the most important
one is the presence of Kirsten in the proceedings.

What occurs is that a communist insurrectionary played by Julia
Roberts gets a job teaching Art History at a strict boarding
school, except it’s full of girls, and not boys, like was the
case in the Weir version. Through a series of hilarious
escapades, the students come to learn of life, passion, Picasso
and so on, and the audience learns all about the hideous
restrictions placed upon young women back in the 1950’s.  

Probably the first thing a fella might note about
Mona Lisa
is that the damn thing is gorgeous. As befitting a flick
all about the colouring-in and the drawing, there’s a painterly
flair to every shot, every image awash with autumnal hues.
Cinematographer Anastas N. Michos previously worked on Edward
Keeping The Faith and the ridiculously under-rated
Death To Smoochy, but this shit right here is the best he’s ever
done. Obviously Kirsten is 92% responsible for how gorgeous it
all looks, but Michos and Newell deserve some sort of pat on the
back or whatever too.

Kirsten plays Betty Warren, not to be confused with Betsy Jobs,
whom she studied in
Dick, nor indeed Becky Thatcher, for whom
she lent her angelic tones in the animated
The Adventures Of Tom
. Betty Warren, truth be told, is probably a rather
thankless role. Like what she did in
Bring It On or The Cat’s
, though, Kirsten invests a potentially unlikeable character
with a natural radiance, a humanity, a bruised but beautiful

Yeah Kirsten, I know. You did that shit right there all on your

Flung in the direction of your Jennifer Love-Hewitt’s or your Al
Pacino’s, a character like Betty Warren would be an insufferable
bitch fit only for to be hissed at in the street. As inhabited
by Kirsten, though, the character provides some of the most
heartbreaking moments in the picture.  

The rest of the cast, whilst nowhere near as wonderful as
Kirsten, are still pretty fucking terrific, truth be told. Best
of all these Non-Kirsten’s is Maggie Gyllenhaal, who overcomes
the seemingly insurmountable odds she faces by being the sister
of that motherfucker from out
Donnie Osmond or whatever, and
delivers a truly memorable, damn well fantastic performance.

Students of cinematic concerns might want to note the moment
when Kirsten starts yelling at Maggie, saying about “all you are
is a fucking old tart, is what”, and so on, and Maggie,
understanding that Kirsten’s disgust is in fact stemming from
her own loveless marriage, clasps the screaming Betty in her
arms. It’s kinda like that bit in
Good Will Hunting when Robin
Williams is talking about “It’s not your fault” and so on, and
Matt Affleck is trying not to cry, saying about “Don’t fuckin’
pull this shit on me, Williams, I’ll beat your damn ass”, and
then Williams throws his arms around Affleck in a sort of bear-
hug type deal, whilst the younger fella hollers and weeps and

It’s exactly the same, except Maggie doesn’t have a big beard
thing so as we know it’s a “serious” picture, and Kirsten is a
million times more appealing to the senses than young Affleck.
It’s a lump in the throat moment, man, you better believe it,
like when Bambi’s mum gets shot stone dead in
The Lion King, or
that time a fella shoved a rock the size of a fist down your

I don’t want you thinking
The Duke is liable for to start
blubbing every time somebody so much as coughs affectionately,
but I wept, man. When Kirsten starts punching Maggie and
screaming about “He doesn’t love me!” I wept till I thought my
jaw was gonna shatter in my face. I got down on the floor and
wept and wept into the carpet. Weep weep weep, all the live-long
day. It’s just such a beautiful moment, man. Such a disarmingly
raw couple minutes. Fucking hell Kirsten, I wept and screamed
and cried.

Incidentally, what a brilliant fucking flick
Delta Force was,
back in the day.

Other non-Kirsten performances worth noting are as follows;

Julia Roberts is excellent as the communist insurrectionary
subversive who wants to teach the kids all about Pollock and
paintings about corpses.

Julia Styles is equally great as the young lady who may or may
not go to Yale, she hasn’t decided yet. Maybe she’ll just get
married instead.

Gennifer Goodwin as Connie, the butt of many of Kirsten’s knife-
edge asides, is pretty near adorable.

Everyone, in fact, is excellent. If it wasn’t that they share a
screen with Kirsten, maybe they’d have even got an Oscar or a
Grammy or something. Whatever one Chris Tucker was handing out
the other week, that one would be theirs in a second, most

Prior to shooting, the cast spent two weeks at a real-life
boarding school type establishment, and it paid off, man. These
are some convincing students, is what. I don’t know if Weir sent
anyone off to boarding-school before filming
Dead Poets Society.
Probably he sent a few of the uppity fucks off afterwards,

“See how many desks you stand on now, you sons a bitches, with
these demented authoritarians looming over you, just
itching for
a chance for to cane the balls off of you.”

There are parallels between
Mona Lisa Smile and other pieces in
The Motherfucking Cinema Of Kirsten Dunst, most notably Strike
All I Wanna Do), which also concerned itself with the
Girl School shenanigans, as in the institutions, and not the
fucking awful metal outfit. Also, like
The Virgin Suicides, Mona
Lisa Smile
offers a period setting and much debate regarding the
changing attitudes towards femininity.

Further the fuck more, it offers itself freely as a cog in the
political machine operating under the name of
The Political
Works To Be Found Within The Motherfucking Cinema Of Kirsten
. Mona Lisa Smile can feasibly be filed alongside, say, The
Devil’s Arithmetic
, wherein Kirsten travelled back in time to
Nazi Germany, or
Dick, wherein Kirsten assisted in the exposure
of Richard Nixon’s motherfuckery.

Interestingly, both
Mona Lisa Smile and Dick utilise shots of
Kirsten typing for to introduce her character.

It deals with small-minded, reactionary attitudes, as did the
utterly wonderful
Drop Dead Gorgeous, and like Wimbledon, it
tells of a young woman, or many young women, attempting to merge
the professional and the personal without compromising either.

There’s also a brilliant scene early-on that brings to mind
Damien – Omen II, although Kirsten wasn’t in that one. As Julia
Roberts puts slides up on the screen, students take turns
interrupting her and telling her just what she was about to
“teach” them. It’s like the bit in that Anti-Christ picture when
Young Damien answers every increasingly-difficult question the
teacher flings at him, one after the other,
bang bang bang,
never losing his cool for a second.

“You wanna teach me, Roberts?”, Kirsten probably thinks. “The
fuck you’ll teach me, is what. Pretty Woman? I shit me Pretty
, Roberts, shit it right out.”

Except obviously, in real life, Kirsten doesn’t shit ever. It’s
a work of fiction, folks, I mean come on. I’d say that what
happens is that when Kirsten has eaten her dinner or whatever,
the accumulated food and drink just transforms at a molecular
level into sweet sonnets for to rise transcendentally from her
every step.

Biology, motherfucker.

Anyhow, the point is that
Mona Lisa Smile is a truly worthy
entry in the Kirsten Canon. It’s maybe not as glorious as
Man 2 or Eternal Sunshine or The Cat’s Meow, but it’s still
fantastic. It's nowhere near as subtle as Douglas Sirk at his
glorious prime, but like your
All That Heaven Allows or
Imitation Of Life, it offers the political commentary alongside
the melodramatic tear-jerking.

Except for that bicycle scene at the end. That was just fucking
sickening, Newell. Don’t you
ever ask Kirsten to do that kinda
nonsense ever the fuck again.

Thank you Kirsten, so so much.

Thanks folks.

Further Reading

The Motherfucking Cinema Of Kirsten Dunst

Or Go Listen To The Duke's Third EP, Featuring "Of Kirsten Dunst"

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