I first saw the movie Mona Lisa Smile when is was about 13 years old, mom was watching it, and I was sitting on the floor with my nose in a book (what else is new?)…I remember not really paying much attention to the movie back then but that there was one character in particular that stood out to me, and that my odd, nerdy, 13 year old self was able to identify with…Connie Baker, played by Ginnifer Goodwin (Once Upon a Time’s Snow White/Mary Margaret).
Connie is a somewhat awkward character who clearly has (though it’s never stated outright) some self-esteem issues, is introverted, and relies very heavily on the opinion of her friends played by Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
That was me to a T…still is sometimes. I’m still kind of nerdy and introverted…and sometimes have a low opinion of myself, and put too much stock in to what people think of me, even though I know that I shouldn’t.
Watching it now as an adult and understanding more of the content of the film, I still identify with Connie – she’s the low woman on the totem pole that is her circle of friends but in the end Connie ends up being the happiest – she is their north star, she keeps the girls grounded, she is spunky, and in the end she gets what she wants…because instead of resting on her laurels, she gets up and goes after it despite the fact that (mean girl) Betty does everything in her power to put Connie down.
I knew a Betty – she was someone who would compliment you one minute and in the next point out everything that is wrong with you…it was someone that I considered a friend back then.
The fact that 13 year old me and now 21 almost 22 year old me can still identify with Connie is – to me – a sign of good writing and, the mark of a good character. In this movie the story is not about Connie at all…its about Katherine Watson, the art history professor but each of the girls is so well written, so striking that you can’t help but be completely taken in by the supporting cast as well.
Mona Lisa Smile is a movie that – when I watch it now – always makes me think; there are so many subplots dealing with social issues, societal norms, and a woman’s place in society. Many taboo issues for the time period – divorce, a woman going to law school, sex in general.
I will even go so far as to call this film timeless.
It’s a film that you can always learn something from, there are characters that will teach you something…
Connie Baker has taught me to get up and go after what I want…don’t back down regardless of what those around you think.
Even now whenever I see Ginnifer Goodwin in something I think back to this film, and to Connie Baker who will forever be one of my favorite movie heroines.