It's like stepping into an Arthur Fonzarelli daydream. As far as the eye can see: coeds. A lecture hall full of bubbly girls in saddle shoes, itchy tweed skirts, and tight angora sweaters. But the Fonz wouldn't stand a chance in this room. After all, these aren't just any old Eisenhower-era coeds looking to hop on the back of some grease monkey's motorcycle and zip off to Inspiration Point. They're Wellesley girls.
All right, they're actresses playing Wellesley girls, on set last year for the film ''Mona Lisa Smile'' (opening Dec. 19), in which Julia Roberts' art-history professor, Katherine Watson, transforms sheltered girls (including Julia Stiles, Kirsten Dunst, and Maggie Gyllenhaal) into freethinking women. And we're at Columbia University, not Wellesley College. But you get the idea.
Between scenes, Roberts walks over to her husband, cameraman Danny Moder, and gives him a big bear hug. They've been married only five months at this point in the shoot, so ''Mona Lisa'' has turned into a working honeymoon for the newlyweds.
''I don't know what the f--- I'm doing here,'' Roberts says, putting it a bit more bluntly. ''I guess I'm preaching one thing and kind of doing the other, because I still have rice in my hair and I want to stay home and cook dinner. The movie's all about how it's okay for women to go off and have careers, but secretly I'm thinking 'What time do we get out of here?'''