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An educated mind is not necessarily an open one
James Hitchcock20 November 2009
In the cinema certain historical periods have become associated with a particular set of ideas. The 1960s represent change, progress and excitement whereas the 1950s are frequently regarded as a period of stifling social conformity. Of course, the "swinging sixties" did not necessarily start to swing on 1st January 1960, and in retrospect the first few years of the decade seem to have more in common with the conformist fifties than with the "swinging London" era of the later sixties. Certainly, many young people during this period regarded London as a dull, conservative place, and looked eagerly to foreign cities, especially Paris, as being more exciting and radical. There was an enthusiasm for everything French- French philosophy, French literature, French cinema, French fashions, even French jazz and French cigarettes. This Francophilia doubtless included elements of wishful thinking- De Gaulle's Fifth Republic was a more conservative place than many Britons realised- but it was nevertheless an influential phenomenon. It is a phenomenon explored in Julian Barnes' novel "Metroland" (later filmed), and also in this film.

The main character is Jenny, a teenage schoolgirl living in the London suburb of Twickenham in 1961. Jenny is highly intelligent, and is studying hard with a view to taking the entrance exams to Oxford University. She is not, however, really sure why she wants to go to Oxford, except that she is being pushed to do so by her parents who feel that university is the best place for her to meet a wealthy husband.

Jenny's life changes when she meets a handsome and charming older man named David. They quickly become close friends and begin dating. David is clearly wealthy, and claims to be an art dealer and property developer. More important to Jenny, however, is his knowledge of culture. He is well up with all the latest intellectual and artistic fashions from France and takes her to concerts and jazz clubs. What really impresses her is that he takes her to Paris. Eventually, David proposes to Jenny and she accepts and drops out of school without taking her A-levels, her Oxford ambitions abandoned.

Many parents would be worried about the idea of their sixteen-year-old daughter being romanced by a thirty-something man, especially if his influence leads her to neglect her education, but Jenny's parents, especially her complacent, Philistine father, seem strangely unconcerned. His argument is that as Jenny has now found a wealthy suitor there will be no need for her to use Oxford as a dating agency. His one objection to David as a son-in-law seems to be that he is Jewish. (Anti-Semitism was unfortunately widespread in British society at this period). Yet it is obvious to the audience that there is a darker side to David's character. His business methods are, to say the least, not beyond reproach (the character may have been based upon the notorious slum landlord Peter Rachman) and he never takes Jenny to his home, always meeting her in a luxurious flat belonging to his friend and business partner Danny. Eventually, even Jenny herself begins to suspect that David is not all he seems.

The title "An Education" can be understood on two levels. As a coming-of-age drama it narrates Jenny's metaphorical "education" in the wider sense of learning lessons about life. Yet it obviously also deals with her education in the narrower, literal sense of the word. It raises similar issues to another great British film, "Educating Rita", namely whether it is formal academic education or informal education to be gained in the outside world which is the more valuable. Jenny drops out of school because she believes that she can better acquire knowledge, both of high culture and of the ways of the world, through her life with David than through academic study. (Jenny's vision of her future life envisages her living with David in Paris on the Rive Gauche, reading Sartre, smoking Gauloises and going to the cinema to see the latest productions of the Nouvelle Vague). It seems hard to blame her for this conclusion, given that in the film the main advocate of the life academic is her headmistress, an intellectual snob and virulent anti-Semite ("The Jews killed Our Lord!") who serves as a reminder that an educated mind is not necessarily an open one. It is only when she becomes disillusioned with David that Jenny starts to reassess her priorities.

Her performance in the lead role has led to Carey Mulligan being hailed as the "new Audrey Hepburn", although the main point of resemblance seems to be that at one point in the film Jenny sports (as many young women doubtless did in the early sixties) a Hepburn-style hairdo. Nevertheless, on the basis of this performance Mulligan would appear to be a highly promising star in the making, perhaps the new Keira Knightley. Although she is actually 24, she always seems entirely believable as a naive young teenager. Other good contributions come from Peter Sarsgaard as the smooth, reptilian David, Alfred Molina as Jenny's comical, blustering father, Rosamund Pike as Danny's airheaded mistress Helen and Emma Thompson in an excellent cameo as the obnoxious headmistress.

Period drama is something the British cinema often does well, and "An Education" falls within this tradition, even though it has a Danish director, Lone Scherfig. 2009 has already seen two good British costume dramas, "The Young Victoria" and "Dorian Gray", but "An Education" is an even better one. It is not only a study of a girl on the verge of womanhood, but also an exploration of issues such as social class, racism and the value of education. One of the best British films of recent years. I hope that the Academy will remember it when next year's Oscars are being handed out. 9/10
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Education is a double entendre well intended, well done...London 1961!
secondtake10 April 2010
An Education

Take a star high school senior shooting for Oxford, and add a charming man more like thirty who seduces her (and you) with his utterly kind, gentle, clever, and generous nature.

You can guess what follows. And in a way, that's the let down of the whole thing. The idea is a simple one, yet it unfolds so beautifully, with some extraordinary acting, it is quite engrossing. John Peter Sarsgaard as David, the seducer, is totally convincing, even though we know fairly early that something isn't quite what it seems. As events gradually devolve, so does his character, to a final, deflated ending. The heroine, Jenny, swept into the mess, is played with predictable delicacy by Carey Mulligan, and in a surprise she is really a great supporting role, of sorts, for Sarsgaard, even though she is the star.

Part of the appeal of the movie is the period, early 1960s, as England is finally getting out of the huge debts and doldrums of World War II and the swinging 60s are ready to fly (the Beatles are together but not well known). The old fashioned world, conservative and conventional, of Jenny and her family is dismal and yet comfortable, adorned with small worldly decorations. David brings Jenny to modern life, with its jazzy clubs and trips to Paris, and it's hard not to say his version of life is far superior. Oxford, after all, is so old-school.

It's a joy on all these levels. It doesn't quite have the naturalness it always needs, a few are scenes forced, and the plot lacks complexity (not that complexity is needed, but it needs something to layer it up). Most off-putting of all is the overly precocious Jenny, whose speeches to her schoolmistress and her teacher, and to David, sound like literature, not like a real 17 year old struggling to escape a sheltered upbringing. It doesn't ring true, and the movie depends on believability.
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an enjoyable and respectable teen girl coming-of-age-romance story
MisterWhiplash23 October 2009
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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in defense of An Education
kleiner_fuchs20 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
*** Major Spoilers ***

"An Education" is an entertaining little film, well done in all respects and superbly acted.

Some commentators here have complained about how implausible it was how the heroine, and her father, act in this film. I however think that this exactly is the point the film tries to make:

-It shows that while being "smart" in school when getting good marks, you can still be "stupid" when it comes to relationships (Thinking that it is OK to be deflowered by a much older man you hardly know, as long as you are seventeen years old - so bizarre!). In school they may train you to get an "A" but the things that are really important in life, they don't teach you there. That has been true back then and it is still true today.

-It shows that even people with a higher education can have completely absurd views. If a headmistress displays such revolting and primitive anti-Semitism as is shown in the film, it may be sad but not at all implausible. Look around you today: Being a scholar at an university sure doesn't prevent you from being an idiot.

-It shows that while being concerned about his daughter's future, a loving father can still act stupid and make terrible mistakes. I thought Alfred Molina did a wonderful job in portraying this father, who seemed weak and - indeed - very stupid, but not at all implausible.

For me the most important scene was when Jenny discovers that David is a thief and, outraged, starts to walk away, but is then convinced by David to stay. I'm sure she knows that it's wrong to stay and that there will be no happy ending if she stays, and still she can't help it because the alternative - leading a decent, but boring life - is unacceptable to her. The representation of the world she is living in as seen in the film made me absolutely believe in her dilemma: doing what is expected of her by teacher, headmistress and parents, and be unhappy, or being happy in the company of criminals. A horrible choice indeed, when you can see no third way beyond these two.

And this is the reason why I found the ending of "An Education" the only weak point of the film and very disappointing: Miraculously, Jenny is finally admitted to Oxford, and suddenly the dull and boring life she detested earlier in the film, as seen in the arguments with her teacher and headmistress, is OK? WHY? The ending seemed far too moralizing, as if to say to the young viewers of the film: "Just stay in school, always conform to what society expects of you, even if it seems boring and useless (like wasting years of your wonderful youth in school), in the end it will all be fine!" The cheap feel-good-turn at the end, THAT was implausible. It would have been so much better if the film ended with Jenny NOT being admitted to Oxford, leaving the rest to the viewer's imagination.
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Well deserved positive criticism...
ajs-1015 May 2011
I remember this film getting quite a lot of critical praise when it came out and so I was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. Of course it got nowhere near being shown in my local cinema and so I waited patiently for it to show on TV. A screenplay by Nick Hornby based on a memoir by Lynn Barber and set in London in the early 1960's it has all the hallmarks of a decent production. You'll be glad to know that I agree with the critics, yes, it's pretty good. There were a couple of points where it could have gone off the rails, but fortunately it stayed on the tracks and we have a fine piece of work.

Jenny Mellor is a bright sixteen year old student whose parents have ambitions for her to study at Oxford University. She is slightly disenchanted with her lot though, and yearns to go out and experience the world while she is still young. By chance she meets David, a man more than twice her age, who recognises something in her and takes her to see the sights. Two friends of his, Danny and Helen come along and Jenny goes to concerts, sees art, dines in fine restaurants and even visits Paris. David does all this with Jenny's parent's permission, he is very persuasive. Of course all is not what it seems and her world is about to take a massive jolt and the many arguments she has made against conformity are about to be tested.

This is a very well made film which features a stand-out performance from Carey Mulligan as Jenny; she was really outstanding in the part. Peter Sarsgaard was suitably suave as David, as was Dominic Cooper as Danny. Both Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour did a good job as Jenny's parents, Jack and Marjorie. Rosamund Pike played the part of the, rather dim, Helen very well and Olivia Williams did a very good job as Jenny's teacher Miss Stubbs. Finally, a mention for Emma Thompson who had a nice cameo as the headmistress.

This film asks a lot of questions about how some parents try to control the lives of their children, although it's not the main point of the story. I really liked the way it was written but I still felt one or two bits could have done with tidying up (I'm sorry, I can't be specific – spoilers). Having said that, I did enjoy it very much and I really liked the ending. I would definitely watch it again sometime… Recommended.

My Score: 7.6/10
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A movie like a candy bar - great to indulge in, soon forgotten afterward.
Sebastian H7 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
One thing this movie excels in is taking you back in time. Back to a time that maybe didn't even exist quite like this - well-composed, carefully picked colors, spotless suits and vibrant jazz joints. But to be honest, us moviegoers don't care whether reality used to be like this or like that. We want to be taken to a magic place for two hours and, with its great photography and the heavenly music, "An Education" does just that. So what more can we want?

I'll tell you what - a story. I like Nick Hornby a lot and I have read most of his novels. All the more, I was genuinely baffled at how an exciting, sparkling beginning developed into a what tasted like a flat drink in the end. Looking behind the eye and ear candy, what is there? Intelligent, beautiful college girl is seduced by what seems to be a dream guy and consequentially flunks high school. Eventually she finds out he's not all he pretended to be and finally manages to straighten up. A plot line that, examined closely, would look pale next to a random soap episode.

This is where I stop nagging because I actually liked the movie. Carey Mulligan is just great to watch and her performance feels like a fresh breeze throughout. Peter Sarsgaard does a solid job although he seems a bit too sleazy at times. Most of all, I enjoyed watching Alfred Molina - decades of acting experience effortlessly outplaying the talented young.

To summarize, my problem with this film is not its lack of intellectual stimulation, because, quite simply, it is entertaining enough to do without. The problem is that it kind of *promises* food for thought in the beginning and doesn't hold up to that promise in the end. Anyway that's how I felt about it. All in all it's a movie like a candy bar - great to indulge in, soon forgotten afterward.
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Pre-Swinging London made easy -- too easy
Chris Knipp10 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The young Carey Mulligan is sprightly and charming and does look a bit like Audrey Hepburn in this period drama about a bright, pretty 16-year-old suburban London schoolgirl who with a show of reserve gives in to the seduction, cultural and sexual, of David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard), a thirty-something man of dubious intent and questionable livelihood. He's a smiling gangster, really, though the storytelling shows some skill in revealing the ugliness only in little gradual bits until bam! Comes the big shocker. Not that, by then, it's much of a surprise.

David rescues Jenny (Ms. Mulligan) and her cello from a heavy downpour -- already his sleek purple Bristol car is a strong hint of his subtle mixture of poshness and sleaze -- and before she can say "I'm a virgin" he's taking her to classical concerts, auctions of Burne-Jones paintings, and jazz clubs with free-flowing champagne. With them are David's cohort and "business partner" Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Danny's dumb blonde girlfriend Fanny (Rosamund Pike). Danny's sleeker and more handsome than David and where he lives is packed with handsome artworks. We don't see where David lives, and when we do, we find out why.

Helen, who's never read a book, let alone Camus, exists to set off Jenny's intelligence and would-be sophistication. Jenny listens to Juliette Greco's smoky chansons, gratuitously spouts French, quotes the French existentialist, and dreams of Paris -- anything to escape this dull country (which has not begun to swing yet, since its only 1961). She's not so good at Latin, but at her girl's school her literature teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams) appreciates her and wants passionately for her to go to "read English" at Oxford, a phrase the film explains so insistently you'd think academic British were a completely foreign language too.

What's a bit hard to believe in this otherwise routine tale, based on a memoir by writer Lynn Barber and turned into an easy-to digest screenplay by Nick Hornby, is the way Jenny's parents go along with the idea of David, this mysterious and oily older man, taking their college-prep daughter off to fancy watering places unchaperoned; he tells a string of lies to soften them up, some of them unbelievably crude, like his remark when first introduced to Jenny's mom, "You didn't tell me you had a sister." This compliance is justified by the fact that for her mother Marjorie (Cara Seymour) and timid but bumptuous dad Jack (Alfred Molina), marriage to a man with money, which David evidently has, wherever it comes from, is as good as going to university, maybe better. In any case, Jenny doesn't keep any of what's going on a secret; in fact she boasts of it to her classmates, and the teachers know too. The only sign that all morals haven't been relaxed yet is the headmistress (a wasted Emma Thompson), who sees Jenny as disqualifying herself for Oxford, the school, or respectable life.

Carey Mulligan blooms before our eyes in this movie, and its worth watching for that. There's a squirmy pleasure in observing her scenes with Peter Sarsgaard, and David is a good role for him. This is a character who is always acting so if Sarsgaard never seems natural that well fits the part. The whole trouble with 'An Education' is that everybody gets off too easy. David, whose declared Jewishness almost seems like evil type-casting, is a thoroughly despicable person when we really get to know him: how come he just gets to slither away? Jenny never suffers any lasting ill effects of her misbehavior even though everybody knows about it. Conflicting morals in early Sixties England are never a hardship for her or well dramatized in Hornby's simplistic plot. She's never confused, and it all turns out just fine. Good for her, but it leaves one with a queasy feeling not only because of the reptilian behavior of the boyfriend but because consequences are simply ignored, unlike in the much more hardscrabble film about a young girl's virginity actually made in 1961, Tony Richardson's fine 'A Taste of Honey' (written by Shelagh Delaney). How can Jenny be a heroine, if she has no real challenges to face? This doesn't feel like 1961 London, after all. It's just another modern take on a sassy young woman's premature liberation.
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Precocious 60s schoolgirl collides with oily conman
Cliff Hanley30 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Most of us are aware of Lynn Barber as the occasionally controversial columnist and interviewer in the posh Sunday papers. But whatever she creates has to compete with her own life story for hair-raising melodrama. An Education is based on her autobiographical piece and the screenplay is by none other than Nick Hornby. Right from the opening credits, the impeccably chosen soundtrack date-stamps each episode in the rite of passage of only-sixteen Jenny, west London surburban jailbait. Carey Mulligan in the starring role is probably a little older than the character she's playing, but that fits well, as she has to be a sardonic would-be sophisticate in the body of a bright-eyed, babyfaced schoolgirl. English life in 1962 is perfectly recaptured: streets empty of parked cars, with demographic changes and slum landlords in the background. What really brings out how times have changed is when we see a major collectable work of art selling at auction for little more than £200, which was an average annual wage at the time. Alfred Molina as the all too impressionable Dad gave a performance to die for, although it was Emma Thompson as the headmistress who got the best line in the whole drama. The tiny audience at the local preview filled the room with hoots of horrified laughter. But to begin: young Jenny becomes seduced by a much older David, the convincingly oily Peter Sarsgaard. Before this, she was trying to excel in her life by sticking at school to get into Oxford University. Her parents, living through her as parents often do, are also seduced by the rascally David as Jenny turns her back on all thoughts of the academic life. After an unspeakably romantic visit to Paris she gradually comes to see the other side of the coin. It's as much a rake's progress as it is a young girl's loss of innocence.
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Nice sports car. Sure, I'll marry you.
Irie21225 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Carey Mulligan does a fine job in the lead role, but Jenny is a problematic construction, and she's not the only one.

Jenny is 16 going on 17, and is markedly intelligent as well as quick-witted and self-confident, but she is also naive, particularly about men. She tentatively enters an affair with a fortyish fellow with a cool Bristol sports car. That much can be chalked up to naiveté. She is bothered that he is an unprincipled estate agent and a smooth and opportunistic liar, but not bothered enough to reject his marriage proposal. In spite of the fact that his proposal is apparently an impulsive response to a moment of jealousy, as well as the fact that he never-- not once-- invites her to his home, or says a single word about his family, she accepts his ring and drops out of school. That's not only an example of Jenny being naive; it also reveals how the writer-- the self-aggrandizing memoirist, Lynn Barber-- manipulates her story beyond plausibility, apparently in order to crucify her father.

Which brings us to Dad, a thankless role played by Alfred Molina using only two notes in his otherwise full-octave range. As a father, he is straight out of an essay by an aggrieved teenager. Accorded no complexity, no depth, not even any consistency, Dad begins as a dictum-spouting martinet determined to get his only offspring into Oxford, but then-- in a character change as abrupt as Dr. Jekyll's-- he completely reverses himself when Mr. Fortyish shows up with his posh car, lavish gifts, and equally lavish whoppers. Suddenly Dad thinks it's a jolly grand idea that his 17-year-old daughter quit school and marry an older man about whom he knows next to nothing. The father is a callow teenager's vision of an injudicious parent, a character sculpted by vindictive hindsight, not mature insight. (The mother is better only for being mostly silent and long-suffering. No insight there either.)

The film tries to seduce the audience, the way Jenny is seduced, with the fast car, great art and music, posh clothes and champagne. It might have worked, but only if the characters were believable enough to care a whit about them.
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Undeserved accolades for unsavory tale of teenage rebellion
Turfseer10 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
'An Education' is a film rife with one implausible character after another. For starters, when we're introduced to the protagonist, high school student Jenny, she seems way too sophisticated for a 16 year old. The main problem is that Carey Mulligan, who plays Jenny, is 24 years old in real life. Why didn't they cast a teenager?

Then there's the problem of the girl's father, Jack. At first he appears extremely petulant, a caricature of the pushy parent who wants their child to succeed at any cost. With his insistence that Jenny study night and day in order to get into Oxford, we're first led to believe that he's the film's antagonist. But soon when con-artist David appears on the scene, Jack is suddenly reduced to unprincipled buffoon. I say buffoon because he's so easily taken in by David's scheme—that David is actually an Oxford alumnus and knows famous Oxford professor/author C.S Lewis. If this was a real character, wouldn't have Jack made a few simple inquiries to determine whether David was telling the truth or not?

In very simplistic fashion, the implication here is Jenny's sudden embrace of a life of crime is due to Jack's lack of principles. David basically buys Jack's acquiescence in allowing Jenny's trips away from home and ultimately accepting the idea of Jenny and David tying the knot. Somehow all this so easily rubs off on impressionable Jenny. The gutless father figure is nothing new—just think of Jim Backus strutting around in an apron in 'Rebel without a cause'.

Perhaps the moment I found to be the most incredulous was Jenny's sudden transformation from earnest student to unsavory bad girl. Even with the father acting the way he did, would she have so suddenly embraced David once she discovers that he's a con artist? I would think that a normal teenager would have been very alarmed that she was now in the company of a bunch of criminals and fear would have entered into the equation. But what was Jenny's reaction? A mild protest and then David sweeps her off her feet.

David was disappointing in that he was such a tame sociopath. What are his crimes? Well, he steals an antique map from a house that's up for sale and arranges for minorities to move into apartment buildings, scaring elderly tenants, and then buying the apartments from them when they decide to leave, at cut-rate prices. Oh yes, he also cheats on his wife. Equally disappointing is the couple he hangs out with—except for one scene where there is a confrontation with Jenny, they really have little to do.

Every melodrama needs a villain and that is of course the headmistress of the school Jenny attends. After she finds out David is Jewish, she blurts out that the Jews "killed our Lord". Not only is she depicted as a vile anti-Semite but she cruelly rejects Jenny's request to be reinstated. Only Jenny's kindly teacher is willing to give her encouragement.

If you think about it, everyone seems to get a 'pass' in this movie except for the headmistress. Even David, despite his philandering ways, is not such a bad guy and is not truly held accountable for his amorality precisely because he is such a charming character (the film's scenarists imply that he too is a 'victim' of his environment).

There is nothing subtle about 'An Education'. It's an old-fashioned morality play where the good guys (educated professionals) triumph over shiftless petty criminals who hang out at such unsavory venues as dog tracks and seedy nightclubs. Everything is tied up in a nice ribbon at the end when both Jenny and her father repent and Jenny is miraculously accepted into Oxford.

'An Education' is a tawdry little tale that has already garnered a good share of undeserved accolades. It does boast a nice recreation of early 60s London along with a brooding score but in terms of psychological insight and depth of character, it totally lacks any kind of aesthetic credibility.
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Lessons in An Education
learningthelingo11 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Director Lone Scherfig and Nick Hornby's adaptation of British journalist Lynn Barber's memoir of the same name follows 16-year-old Jenny Miller (Carey Mulligan), a bright Twickenham school girl who is on her way to studying literature at Oxford.

During her final year, while taking A levels, Jenny fortuitously meets the enigmatic thirty-something David (Peter Sarsgaard) in the rain, who then subsequently shows her the life that she's dreamed of; full of music, art, culture and even Paris with the aid of his uber trendy friends (Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike).

Confined by the early 1960's pre-Beatle mania, Jenny is a hostage of the times, to which David ultimately shows her a way out. Her father (Alfred Molina) does not allow her to play music, and wants her to study so she can get into Oxford and meet a nice man. As David charms both Jenny and her parents, he becomes the eligible husband that her parents were hoping for, and studying for Oxford becomes redundant, which ultimately brings the biggest question that the film poses: is an education necessary for Jenny to experience her desires and yearnings.

The two lead characters are played with perfection by American indie star Sarsgaard (Kinsey, Jarhead, Garden State and Orphan) and newcomer Mulligan, however it is the latter that steals the show. So rarely is such headstrong determination, vulnerability and such a true desire to experience such joie de vive encapsulated in a performance, but Mulligan nails it, and I predict an Oscar nomination for her, if not a win.

The film is complete with beyond competent direction by the Danish born Scherfig and a smart screenplay from Hornby (only his second screenplay, and first that is not adapted from one of his own stories) along with stunning performances from a strong supporting cast, with notable mentions to Olivia Williams as Jenny's teacher, Alfred Molina as Jenny's overbearing and yet anxious and vulnerable father and scene stealing moments from Emma Thompson and Sally Hawkins.

Expect to see An Education at the top of the upcoming "best" lists of 2009, and even at the Kodak theatre in February next year, with high chances of collecting Oscar gold. It is also, without a doubt, the ultimate must see film for a liberal arts student.
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Feeling Old, but not Very Wise
Claudio Carvalho1 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
In 1961, in Twickenham, London, the naive sixteen year old Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is an excellent student that feels bored and repressed by her father Jack (Alfred Molina) that is preparing her to go to Oxford to have a better life. When Jenny meets the bon vivant Jewish David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard), she becomes fascinated with his lifestyle and his friends Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Helen (Rosamund Pike) despite their difference of age. On her seventeenth birthday, Jenny loses her virginity with David; and when he proposes her, Jenny does not take her examinations to Oxford and quits school. But she accidentally finds that David is married and she tries to recover the lost time and heal the open wounds with her teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams).

"An Education" is a coming-of-age romance supported by great performances. Carey Mulligan is convincing in the role of a teenage girl, despite being older than her character. Peter Sarsgaard is also great and shows a great chemistry with Jenny in the role of an older bon-vivant crook. The story is based on the "harsh lesson in love and life" of the Observer writer and interviewer Lynn Barber. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Educação" ("Education")
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My 313th Review: A good Chaucerian cautionary tale with a very significant debut by one Carey Mulligan
intelearts2 February 2010
With excellent acting and excellent visuals this is a good film, as a Chaucerian cautionary tale, or a retake on Congreve, it succeeds in buckets. But more even than the excellent script by Nick Hornsby is a marvellous performance by Carey Mulligan.

It tackles what is an incredibly sensitive subject, more so today than even in its setting, the relationship between a teenager and an older man, with definite aplomb. What could have been either an anachronistic script filled with moral sensibilities that didn't surface in 1961 or a cheap and tawdry sensationalist production is handled with verve, humour, and brings both the wonder of first love and the seductive ability of that love to steer lives in directions we'd rather not go out in ways that work very well indeed.

Carey Mulligan has more than a touch of sensibility about her and is, obviously, the more mature, yet still a naive genué - her performance is to be admired for its ability to not switch characters but rather hold a fast course that is totally believable. I seriously cannot think of any debut in the past 20 years that has this weight. Like Taylor in National Velvet or Johnny Mill's daughter in Whistle Down the Wind you just know you are watching something very special indeed.

All the parts are very well written by Nick Hornsby and what we get is both complex and light, a witty drama with depth that truly evokes the post-Suez and Macmillan era; Britain before the Beatles but a Britain full of a generation who didn't wanted to be reminded of rationing and the Blitz, who were searching to get away from the drudgery of a boring job-for-life that was killing their parents by degrees.

While there are moments of real unease, not surprisingly given the subject matter, there is nothing to not recommend about this: it is thoughtful, funny, intriguing, and marks the start of a significant career for Carey Mulligan who will certainly become one of the leading British actresses of her generation.
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Perfect pitch
mjkarlin10 October 2009
This beautifully observed film is anchored by a series of performances acted with perfect pitch by its stars and supporting cast, led by the remarkable Carey Mulligan, and a truly extraordinary script by Nick Hornby. The coming of age plot is, perhaps, a little formulaic but that really takes second place to a series of wonderfully engaging characters who surround Ms. Mulligan's 16/17 year-old Jenny as she falls a little to hard for the appealing (and older) rogue played by Peter Sarsgaard.

One annoying little piece of trivium. The University of Oxford does not now and did not in 1962 admit undergraduates. Undergraduates are admitted by individual colleges at the university. So the letter that Jenny receives in which we learn whether she was accepted for a place would have come from a college and not the university as a whole.

And one amusing detail: Rosamund Pike who plays Dominic Cooper's decidedly non-academic blonde girlfriend actually attended Wadham College, Oxford! Takes an Oxford alum to play a dumb blonde, I suppose.
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Why can't American movie makers make a movie this great?
zken1 November 2009
You don't need to know the plot to understand that this movie has all of the magic of true art-a wonderful story, an actress and director seemingly out of nowhere, and a cinematic style that is dramatic and completely engrossing and satisfying. What is amazing is that this film shows how American cinema has completely lost its touch. In the old studio days young American actresses, and actresses from around the world were somehow discovered and developed. When is the last time that has happened in Hollywood? Our movie machine is run by a bunch of bean counters that don't know art from bank notes, casting the same tired names over and over again in endless overblown works of absolute drivel. Here is a movie with a relatively small budget, relatively unknown actors, and a plot that seems pedestrian. If you don't see this film you will probably miss one of the most touching, true and completely cinematic works of many years. This movie is a miracle.
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Well Acted but Clichéd
kenjha18 April 2010
In early 1960s England, a 16-year old schoolgirl becomes infatuated with a man nearly twice her age. The best thing about this handsomely made if unoriginal drama is the winning performance by Mulligan, a radiant young actress. American Sarsgaard seems an odd choice to play her British suitor, but he brings an appropriate creepiness to the role. Also notable are Molina, Williams, and Thompson. Although based on a memoir, it is hard to believe that the young lady's parents would be so gullible and idiotic as to let her go out of town for overnight stays with an older man they know nothing about. The screenplay is somewhat plodding, leading to a clichéd ending.
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Not Much
nattylap214 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Sorry to be the skunk at the garden party, but this film just did not do it for me.

Yes, Ms. Mulligan is beautiful and charming. But she is also another one of filmdom's 16-going-on-20 heroines. It's understandable that she was vulnerable to the attraction of her playboy lover. But she was also supposed to be a very smart person. Smart enough to have seen that all was not as it should be.

But the biggest gap was in Alfred Molina's role. Here is this stick in the mud father, whose idea of the perfect gift for a 17 year old is a Latin dictionary. Yet he opens his arms to a suitor twice his daughter's age, no questions asked. Yes, I know he was blinded by the shine of all that money. But how many fathers, no matter how obsessed with money, would send their teen age daughters off for the weekend with a relatively middle-aged lothario. Maybe Brittany Spears' father, but not a proper Englishman in the 1960s
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A cushioned lesson ...
Cruiz Dwyer7 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a 16 year-old girl who is attempting to get into Oxford University and has high promise of doing so due to her exceptional intelligence. However, she feels that life is far too linear and she wishes to be able to express herself by listening to French music and going to the cinema and theatre whenever she can, but her parents forbid this for the most part. On a chance encounter Jenny meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), an older man who allows her the freedom to live life the way she wishes to do so.

An Education is adapted from the memoir of the British journalist Lynn Barber, and is a coming-of-age drama set in 1960's London. The story unfolds in a very standard fashion but it is the very core themes of the narrative which keep it engaging. The main theme of the film revolves around the importance of a rationalized living, such as getting a formal education and having the chance of being boxed into a typecast, versus living life to the full and having an existence on the foundation of enjoyment. The films is also evenly paced and while it is a fun and interesting watch, there is a slight mishap to the overall narrative structure which hinders the film greatly. While the film is set up by trying to understand how Jenny feels about her current life compared to the life she could have, the film does little to dwell on the realistic consequences of the actions made by many of the characters, especially Jenny. Any poor decisions she makes in her life are gazed across far too quickly, and those by other characters are none the better. It is a disheartening aspect to the story, and one which would have made the film more cohesive with it's message.

Nevertheless, there is not much else to criticize the film for. The acting, for instance, is superb with some natural performances. Most of the screen time is dominated by Mulligan and then Sarsgaard. While the chemistry between both never really works all the time, they are still appear amply suited. The rest of the cast all support these two and even the likes of the talented Emma Thompson and Alfred Molina never imbalance the fine equilibrium. Each character also comes across as unique. For example, where Mulligan's Jenny is rational and tries to act sophisticated, Rosamund Pike's Helen is ethereal and frivolous. These contrasts seem simple but they work in addressing the core concerns of the film.

Director Lone Scherfig does an amazing job with her creative vision of the script even though she does not create a unique cinematic experience. For the majority of the film, the camera work is understandably controlled, and helps to convey the characters as they ought to be. However, as if to aid the thematic notion of the film, when Jenny in introduced to a more a world of artistic expression, Scherfig is quick to make the camera work more loose and free, heightening the film's very premise of rationality versus emotion.

Beyond some implied sex and nudity, An Education contains little in terms of content with violence and language.

There is a charming simplicity to An Education which allows the narrative to unfold without any hindrance. The acting is great, the direction is just as good, and the story has some important messages to impart to audiences. Though as a coming-of-age story, An Education steers clear of trying to have an impact with its core themes, and ultimately suffers for convenience.

-(Durban International Film Festival 2009)
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Wow! That sure educated me!
oleg-f13 February 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Well, clearly this film isn't for everyone. Judging by the other reviews, I can say that most people mistook this for a simple "romance flick" and didn't see the point in it at all. But even if you miss the point, it still remains an aesthetic masterpiece. You can feel genuine 60s atmosphere all around, the characters have quite diverse and interesting personalities and are yet well defined, the lines are intelligent and yet often exhilaratingly funny. And the cast was just amazing. I was intrigued by an arcane Peter Sarsgaard, carried away by the effectual mimic of Carey Mulligan, I was amused and felt yet identified with Alfred Molina's funny inhibitions, and I literally melted away from Rosamund Pike's sweetly silliness.

I have to admit, that after watching it the first time, I didn't understand the moral of the whole story. The fact, that David was married, seemed to me as an unfortunate circumstance that shouldn't have kept the girl from doing what she enjoys and living her dream. When she was accepted at Oxford, her problem still hadn't been solved. She would have be doing what she declared to be boring. Once again her life would have lacked excitement and pleasure.

But... You have to remember what gave her that excitement in the first place. Everything David possessed, whether material or non-material, he acquired dishonestly. And as easily something is acquired or achieved, as easily it can be taken away. That applies to both his wealth and his personal life. In his professional life, he chose the easy path by stealing, and in his personal life he made it easy for himself by lying. When Jenny found out about him being married, the whole dream just vanished into thin air. Now let's just imagine for a second that the police found out about David's criminal activities... He would have been left with nothing. Just like what happened to their relationship. Easy come, easy go.

When Jenny said: "The life I want, there's no shortcut", she understood that if you want to possess something permanently, there is no other way, than to earn it with your own sweat.
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Well-done, but could have been brilliant..
rjmatuse23 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I went into this film with high expectations, which is never a good thing. I wouldn't say that I was let down, but I definitely was not astounded. I was hoping for the Oscar performance of the year, not just a good film. That being said, I feel my resulting view is somewhat tarnished by my jaded attitude. Had I gone into it with no expectations, my opinion might be different. Or maybe not.

First off, Carey Mulligan is extremely natural, charming, and compelling in her role as the witty, intelligent Jenny. There is talk of her receiving an Oscar for her performance. To that I must express my doubts however. Mulligan fits her role beautifully, but it's not a very taxing role to fit. The wide-eyed school girl who gets duped by the older man; we've seen it before, though maybe not as well-done. She was a joy to watch and very charming, but nothing that I would call astounding. I didn't feel moved or changed by her performance. Do I have much more respect for her as an actor? Absolutely. Am I left breathless by her performance? No, not quite. I'm not even saying that good acting has to be dramatic; but she portrayed Jenny beautifully up until the end, when she showed very little depth of character. Her emotions seemed brittle and really only bordered anger. Even in the scene that she breaks down, I felt for her, but I did not feel a true sense of hurt, only sadness. Did she really love David? Carey has so much talent, but she definitely has some learning to do in film. I look SO forward to seeing her in other roles and watching her challenge herself. As for now, she rests upon a talented hopeful.

As for the film itself, it conveyed very little message. The setting was perfectly portrayed. Now I did not grow up in the 60's, but seeing films and documentaries, as well as speaking to others who have, I think I can say the film did the time justice. Not once did I question the dialogue or fashions. Mostly I felt the film captured the 60's mentality and way of life. Many are expressing concern over the age difference between Jenny and David, but to be honest, those were the times. Many young girls WERE duped by older men, especially lavish, glamorous ones like David and his friends. If nothing else, this movie is worth watching for the supremely well-done costumes, make-up, and overall period correctness. You certainly feel the fun of the 60's. The plot itself is compelling until towards the end. David and Jenny's relationship is definitely understandable and charming--even if you don't completely trust David, you fall in love with him through Jenny's eyes. His friends are likewise charming and humorous, and you are sucked into their way of life--parties, jazz, drinks, and cigarettes. At the same time, I felt The Talented Mr. Ripley showed the lavish lifestyle a little better. Where An Education excelled in portraying the 60's, I felt it did not expand enough upon any one theme. Did they want to show the destructiveness of a lavish life--the booze and jazz? Well, you caught a glimpse... Or maybe the love David felt for Jenny? That we never even truly understand. Why Jenny? Why this school girl? Yes, she was sophisticated, but why marry her? I suppose it was just his play-boy character, as his wife points out, but even that is not expanded upon. What this movie lacks is closure. Closure on their relationship, closure on the two friends, Danny and Helen--Did Danny love her; was he jealous; or was he just concerned for an innocent girl? (I will say Rosamund's character was extremely well played--it takes a very intelligent actor to play a very unintelligent person well.) And the last five minutes could have been an 80's montage, not to be crass. The depth was severely lacking. So she loses everything--does she cry? Maybe for three seconds after it immediately happens, during a touching scene between her and her father (the parents--another aspect left rather 2-dimensional). But after that she seems to lack a sense of depth, unable to portray all that has happened. So she studies hard and ends up at Oxford. First of all, how she was able to do that is never explained. Second, it was extremely neatly tied with a bow. And thirdly, what on earth is the message? Had David not been married, would she have chosen marriage over an education? We never really understand what there is to gain from an education.

If this movie were merely about a tragic incident where a girl gets mixed up in the fast-paced lavish world of the 60's, seduced by an older man, then An Education portrays it perfectly. However, the film attempts to convey a message that is not fully conveyed. Education is better than throwing life away for marriage. This is never truly explained, though. The former part is extremely well done. You become pulled into the lifestyle just as much as Jenny. But you also take away from the experience as much as she does--very little. The movie was nice to watch, charming and as seducing as David himself. But it will not blow your mind. It could have been brilliant, had some better choices been made.

Overall a joy to watch. I recommend seeing it, but just be aware of its flaws.
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it was the worst storyline and film ever!
hannah m27 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I must disagree with like most people on this film, in the fact that it was far below the rating it was given and disappointed me when I went to see it last night, in every way possible. This is simply because of the storyline of the film and how it was presented. It could have been a good movie, I thought it was going to be after everything I heard of it, but I came out the film feeling most disappointed.

What is the message we are getting from this film? A young girl (Jenny) 16/17years dates a bloke double her age after he gives her a lift home, and then she keeps seeing him everywhere and they go out, like most people would, no problem there. The problem arises in that he is DOUBLE her age and to me just acted like a pervert and stalker all the way through. Surely Jenny would have had to meet him more times, get to know him and then decide to date him. Which brings us to another fault in the film, her family doesn't even care. See now any family (including my own) would at least advise her against this bloke and talk to her about it, tell her the precautions, the pros and cons. at least let her know that they care and are there for her. Then her family should not let her stay with him over night after knowing him for a few days/weeks, but they do, and then do it again in Paris! As if once wasn't enough, lets let our only daughter go off with a strange older bloke, which remember both family and daughter haven't known for very long, to a different part of the world and not even flicker an eye lid about it. Of course she will be fine it's England nothing happens in 50 years ago England! Does it?

Then after knowing he is a thief and that he robs older women all she seemed to do was think its cute/amazing or something. I was pleased when she walked away but she stopped!! Why?!?! Why I ask you is it right that he is a thief and basically a scum of a bloke and she willingly goes along/falls in love. He asks her to marry him after trying to find a ring in the boot of his car, after saying 'it might not fit but it will do'. And she AGREES!! How long has she known him?? What does she even know about him?? Nothing as we find out later in the film.

She quit school, why? She could have carried on while dating this bloke, but no quit school and then feel oh so bad when she is rejected from school once braking up with this bloke. And under no circumstances should she have got into Oxford. Its f*****g Oxford for Pete's sake, she quit school and only seemed to read a book after not being allowed back into school. Then gets a letter saying she is in. WHY?!?!?! I don't care if it was back 50 years ago Oxford is hard to get into and for the likes of her that quit school and didn't care about it she shouldn't have been allowed in.

And another thing why didn't anyone seem to say anything to her, they all went along with her plans like she was the Queen and knew everything. Oh no wait she's 16/17!!!! But even knowing her age and that she is a school girl she was the boss of everyone and knew what she was doing better than all the older women and men in the movie. So what the heck lets be run by school girls, get rid of the Queen we want Jenny, the woman of all knowledge and sense of the world!

This was a STUPID movie and a waste of $20!!! Unless you are a retard and see nothing wrong with what happened in the film then go for it blow your brains out watch the film. But for those who claim to be intelligent, I would recommend staying away from this movie. Have some sense which the film lacks a lot of.
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Lovely but easy
Bo Lee1 January 2010
This is an altogether lovely film. It begins with nice title sequence and then introduces Carey Mulligan who gives a remarkable performance.

Many have said Oscar worthy. I wouldn't say that. Her appearance is mesmerizing and fresh, but I don't think it is an Oscar performance or even an Oscar-worthily written role. Mullingan plays a 16 year old girl who is very smart, literate, charming, but not experienced yet, and she plays it with great self-confidence, which goes unrealistically with her youth. And there isn't much else than confidence and serenity in this performance. I wasn't convinced. I hope Carey Mulligan gets nominated though.

The movie itself is okay, watchable but it didn't challenge me enough. It lacks freshness. It's very Hornby-like. I know he only adapted a memoir here. But the material is similarly uninspiring to his however lovely books and movies based on them. What's the message here? That appearance can be deceiving and that education is a good choice. Well, yes. So I would say a decent juvenile film with good performances from just everybody.
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Massively overrated
storybus17 November 2009
While not a terrible movie, "An Education" is far from new or interesting. The plot is completely predictable... such a cliché it really needs a curve ball to compensate. But it doesn't provide one. I had no idea Hornby was capable of such pabulum (I've loved everything else he's written). In fact, the resolution is so tame, harmless, unearned it feels like a perfume commercial. This is lazy film-making, and based on the critical reviews I really expected more. The acting is very good, as are costumes, but I was left with a great big sense of WHO CARES? Compared to Amelie, Guinevere, and Wish You Were Here, true masterpieces of female coming-of-age, this is a sodden piece of chintz.
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A glossy, well-acted lump of nothing
Ytadel2 December 2010
Hype bandwagon, thy name is An Education. One of the most overrated movies of last five years with a ludicrous 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and only eleven brave critics willing to point out that the emperor has no clothes, An Education is a made-for-TV melodrama dressed up with some outdoor location shooting in London and Paris, a few minor movie stars, and an admittedly good leading performance. It's nowhere near as bad as 2008's The Reader, one of the worst films in my lifetime to be nominated for Best Picture, but at least with that one you could see the Academy going glassy-eyed and groaning "Holocaust... masterpiece..." in the same tone with which a zombie goes "braaaaiinnns...", while An Education is just glossy mediocrity, like being served fancily prepared tofu. You can acknowledge the effort, but you're still eating tofu.

Let me see if I can find enough plot to even talk about: Carey Mulligan plays Jenny, a bright 16-year-old schoolgirl in 1961 England who dreams of attending Oxford. She's seduced by a 35-year-old playboy played by Peter Sarsgaard who introduces her to art, films, jazz, nightclubs, and Paris. Jenny, enchanted by all this culture, has to decide whether to stay true to her dreams of Oxford or get married and live life for love and art. And that's damn near it. I've left out of the final fifteen minutes or so out of respect for the spoiler code, but that's a tragically complete synopsis up to that point. We spend untold stretches of time watching Jenny make lovey-dovey eyes at Sarsgaard or being awed by all the culture, and holy yawn. There's a few other characters but they've fled my memory so quickly I'm half-convinced I was zapped by that Men in Black red-light device immediately after watching.

The film contains possibly the most boring virginity loss subplot in the history of on screen teen characters losing their virginities, only saved from the precipice of completely forgettability one of the most awkward and bizarre movie scenes of 2009 in which Peter Sarsgaard gives Jenny a banana and tells her to loosen herself up with it before they have sex for the film time. This is not played for laughs. It just happens. It was so inane I was half- convinced I was having a fever dream, but looking back on it, no, even my darkest subconscious couldn't come up with a scene like that. No one could come up with a scene like that, except, evidently, screenwriter Nick Hornby.

Whatever else the film does wrong (everything), Carey Mulligan is quite charming and charismatic in the lead role and managed to keep me awake through stretches that would have been cinematic warm milk with pretty much any other British actress I can think of young enough to play a teenager. She has a bright career ahead of her. But nonetheless, don't see An Education. If I could talk to any critic championing this film I would love to ask which scene exactly they think will linger in memory (either collective cultural memory or their own) by 2012, because every second of this film is leaking out of my mind like water through wicker.
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