An Education (2009)

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Rosamund Pike stole this one. The look on her face at the classical music concert is pure comic genius. Yes, it happens to be the same look she has on her face for the entirety of the film. But I think it's most effective here, don't you? I loved this movie. I loved that what could have slipped into melodrama under different direction and writing never does here. Jenny is never as silly or naïve as she first seems. Rather than playing her as a victim, Carey Mulligan presents us with an intelligent young woman who is always more in control of her situation than we assume. Special applause goes out to the Oscar-snubbed Sally Hawkins in a ridiculously thankless cameo that surely could have been cast with any unknown in London.


Every year it seems, a British film is nominated for Best Picture that no one has ever heard of... ever. I remember falling apart at the seams when I was a kid because my parents wouldn't take me to see Remains of the Day. Although the pretense of it being a very "adult" movie was given, I suspect, in the end, that my mom probably would have been more than happy to take me to see it, if only she could actually find a theater that was playing it. I fantasize An Education is such a film.

The picture isn't the particularly smart or clever or inaccessible movie I was expecting to see when I sat down to watch it. It's a simple enough story that takes a few turns that are about as dark as one would expect from Nick Hornby (the screenwriter), most notably the banana scene. At its very core, though, An Education feels, to me, extremely Chekovian in nature, most notably with its use of the city of Paris as an ideal, an escape, the "anywhere but here" that exists just out of our reach. And most notably, like Chekov, it's the constant longing and striving for escape that sets up the very conflict in the film, not only from home, but also from school, from adolescence, from an ordinary life.

As I mentioned before, the plot is quite simple, and nothing entirely original. The performances, however, are what really set the movie apart from other coming of age films that deal with bright, popular schoolgirls (Precious, anyone?). Although Carey Mulligan seems almost effortless in her portrayal as Jenny, the smart yet naïve "protagonist" (depending on the perspective), it's Peter Sarsgaards portrayal of David, that really popped for me when watching the film. Simultaneously charming and downright perverted (I can't think of another word), he balances a fine line between being a real person and being something of a villain... and he does it well, enough so that although the film's climax is entirely logical, it still elicits a sharp intake of breath upon its reveal. Alfred Molina and Olivia Williams are also quite remarkable in their respective roles.

An Education doesn't really strike me as the usual Oscar fare for Best Picture, unless to fill the forementioned "Obscure British film" slot, but it's certainly enjoyable and refreshing. A few more nominations in the acting categories (Sarsgaard, Williams) would have been a nice exchange for the Picture nomination, but, all an all, a pretty wonderful little film.


An Education is a film about a 16-year-old highly-achieving British schoolgirl in the 1960's who discovers a new type of worldly education through seduction by a man in his 30's who is not all that he says he is.

From start to finish, this film is consistently captivating and beautifully executed. Most notable is the excellent acting by the film's lead Carey Mulligan as well as the perfect performances by the rest of the cast. Mulligan's debut lead performance is tenderly, subtly, and flawlessly executed peaking with a beautifully written emotional scene between herself and Emma Thompson. Seeing the progression of Mulligan's character Jenny from an optimistic, bright, hard-studying schoolgirl into a girl exploring a glamorous life outside her scholarly box set my girly heart aflutter. The costumes should be praised as well (particularly the dress featured above that Jenny wears in the nightclub).

Overall, this is a delightful film that retains interest throughout; and, though it has a somewhat basic storyline, all the pieces put together make this a gorgeous film.