Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A movie review: An Education (2009)

An Education (2009)

Director - Lone Scherfig
100 min; PG-13
Carey Mulligan - Jenny
Peter Sarsgaard - David
Rosamund Pike - Helen
Dominic Cooper - Danny
Alfred Molina - Jack
Cara Seymour - Marjorie

16 year old Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is about to move from theoretical education to the practical. A top student bound for Oxford, she is a musician, a linguist, and very pretty. She is also very dull and seemingly driving through life on auto-pilot. All that changes in almost in instant when a chance-encounter with a handsome older man David (Peter Sarsgaard) presents itself, and soon young Jenny finds herself in a world she may have seen in films or read about in books, but frolicking in Paris for a birthday weekend was not something she had ever envisioned for herself.

An Education is a film that hinges squarely on the young shoulders of Mulligan, and she pulls off the role with such ease and poise that it is no wonder she received such acclaim. Without her ability to transform between young, naive but eager to sophisticated, worldly and bold and back again is something special, and her light-heartedness with the role plays well against her use of a dramatic tone in certain scenes. I'm not willing to say this is a great film but it certainly would have made my top 10 of 2009 had I seen it in time. It is a very very good film that I highly recommend for a wonderful performance by Mulligan but also for an overall very well acted piece by the supporting cast. With the exception of Rosamund Pike as Helen (David's friend Danny parades her around on his arm) the perfromances are all nuanced and well placed. Helen, however, feels out of place with the film, and though I understand her role as the older and chique woman whom Jenny both envies and pities, she doesn't ever seem to fit in with her surroundings.

Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour represent fairly common 1960s British parents in their style and wants for their daughter and I found great little moments out of each of them. Ultimately the story reveals itself a little too easily for my tastes, but that does not detract from the overall sense of wonder at a film that actually allows you to escape into the world of a completely different person and really enjoy the ride. To over-simplify things, this is a coming of age tale with all the typical puzzle pieces falling into place, but it is done with a subdued flare that really left me with a warm feeling.

**** out of 5

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