In the early 1960's, sixteen year old Jenny Mellor lives with her parents in the London suburb of Twickenham. On her father's wishes, everything that Jenny does is in the sole pursuit of being accepted into Oxford, as he wants her to have a better life than he. Jenny is bright, pretty, hard working but also naturally gifted. The only problems her father may perceive in her life is her issue with learning Latin, and her dating a boy named Graham, who is nice but socially awkward. Jenny's life changes after she meets David Goldman, a man over twice her age. David goes out of his way to show Jenny and her family that his interest in her is not improper and that he wants solely to expose her to cultural activities which she enjoys. Jenny quickly gets accustomed to the life to which David and his constant companions, Danny and Helen, have shown her, and Jenny and David's relationship does move into becoming a romantic one. However, Jenny slowly learns more about David, and by association ...Written by
an enjoyable and respectable teen girl coming-of-age-romance story
An Education works little wonders even if it's an imperfect film. There's much to recommend about it as this season's British indie movie with something different going for it. It's something about its character and the circumstances of what happens to her that's fascinating: sixteen year old Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a smart girl with a love for Parisian culture and music and movies, is pressured to get into Oxford, not even so much for the English degree to teach English (or Latin as case might be) but for the status. Enter in David (Sarsgard), an older man who rides up to Jenny one rainy day and offers her a ride home. From then on its a romantic affair between the two, where he whisks her to wonderful jazz clubs and auctions, and even, eventually, to Paris. A twist happens late in the film that turns all of this upside down, but I dare not reveal it here.
What makes it interesting is not so much the teen girl with adult male aspect (on that side of the coin it's like a British version of Manhattan only told from the girl's point of view and a less conflicted man in the situation), but how the relationship is perceived by her parents and peers and teachers. This isn't some illicit affair to be kept under wraps, but something that (refreshingly for a movie at least) is out in the open, and with that comes the awkward stares and upturned eyebrows, and as well the charm that David exudes on Jenny's parents. It's as much a film about romance as it is about class, about how Jenny fits in or could fit in to a society in Britain in 1961, and how David fits in and how her parents see her fitting in (or, for that matter, how David fits others in as a property re-seller to the black community). And of course the aspect of Oxford vs. getting married, the only options for Jenny at a crucial point.
And now for the rest of the good and... well, not so much bad but just underwhelming. The good is this newcomer Carey Mulligan. One can't wait but to see her in other films; she's a natural at playing a great range of emotions required for this complex character, a girl who thinks and acts and talks like a woman but yet still sort of a girl at the same time (see Jenny's trip to Paris for that). Supporting players like Molina and Williams are also very good, giving their scenes the proper 'umph' needed and gravitas in some key scenes. Sarsgaard fares a little less well with a good performance but less than convincing accent. The screenplay by Nick Nornby (for once he's adapting a book!) and it's written with a natural ear for the way characters at that time might speak. The direction is clear and concise and just handsome enough to be competent. The last ten minutes, however, seem rushed on all of the ends of the storytelling, after such a good momentum has been building on the crest of Jenny's future.
It's a very good movie where we care about the characters and see some life lessons learned with (usually) unsentimental results. It's a tragic-comic crumpet of a movie, dear and serious, amusing but very telling about human nature. 7.5/10
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