An Education (2009)

 

An Education

Genre: Drama (UK, USA)

Starring: Carey Mulligan (Shame • Drive), Peter Sarsgaard (Boys Don't CryGarden State)

Directed By: Lone Scherfig (Italian for BeginnersWilbur Wants to Kill Himself)

Overview: In London in 1961, a 16 year-old is wooed by a wealthy older man. As this young girl comes of age, she is torn between two lives – her own education and dreams of Oxford, or the man offering her the good life.

Delving deeper into the background of An Education, I’ve come to learn some very interesting things. Making sure not to spoil the ending of An Education, I can say that it’s based on the memoir of Lynn Barber, and her real life seems even more interesting than is shown in the drama of the film. In fact, for a brief time she even dated an international and famous drug smuggler named Howard Marks – a man whose entry in Wikipedia is rather long. I’d suggest that once you’ve seen An Education, check out her own wiki page. It’s juicy, including being full of sex and porn.

Jenny Mellor (Carey Mulligan) is a 16 year-old girl living in London in 1961. She’s intelligent and dedicated. Her interests include the cello, dreaming of going to Oxford and dreaming of going to Paris. David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard) is easily twice her age. His interests include wealth, his sports car, his bon vivant friends and Jenny. She is quickly swept off her feet by his charm and grace, by his maturity. Her mother (Cara Seymour) and overprotective father (Alfred Molina) are immediately wooed as well. David offers their daughter the good life, and everyone knows it. Her teacher (Olivia Williams) and school headmistress (Emma Thompson) know better. Try as they might, they can’t sway her to keep her nose to the grindstone and get into Oxford; Jenny’s too busy dreaming of the wonders David can offer her. But nothing is perfect…

And then you remember she's 16
And then you remember she's 16

I guess that’s as far as I’ll get before delving too much into spoiler territory. An Education’s strength is in its witty script, and the rich dimension of its characters. Jenny is played brilliantly by one of my soon-becoming-a-favourite actresses, Carey Mulligan. Peter Sarsgaard plays the perfect charmer. But An Education has exceptionally strong supporting roles. There’s Alfred Molina as Jenny’s father. Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike are David’s debauched friends, very reminiscent of characters from The Great Gatsby. And there’s Olivia Williams as Jenny’s teacher, Miss Stubbs.

Visually An Education is rich as well. Real effort is taken on making the costumes and set pieces a spectacle, including the vivid colour palate of all the bright and regal places David brings Jenny on their nights out, ever dripping money and excess. Add a script that includes strong women and men dug into their 60s selves and you’ll find that when you’re done, you’ll have enjoyed that your evening included An Education.

She loves her French records.
She loves her French records.

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 8 Script: 8 Plot: 7 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 78% (Worth Learning)
Aftertaste:

Having had several different editions of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, I know that about a dozen films are added every year. Most of those are this and last year’s releases. In the next edition, they’re almost all replaced to keep up to date. After watching An Education, I could tell that it wouldn’t survive the 2011 edition. Though it’s a wonderful film, it’s not nearly as important as most of what sits within those hallowed pages.

 

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