Review: An Education
Sneaking a review in on a Sunday. Hooray, right?
An Education (2009)
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, and Olivia Williams
Directed By: Lone Scherfig
Every once in a while you’ll watch a movie and you’ll notice someone standout. Sometimes they just have a “look” (Megan Fox in Transformers); sometimes it’ll be their performance (Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense); sometimes they just have overwhelming talent (Dakota Fanning in I Am Sam). Whatever they have, they have “it:” that thing that creates stars. While this is something we can’t quite define, I think it’s safe to say that Carey Mulligan has “it.”
An Education is the story of Jenny (Mulligan), a 16 year old school girl who lives in London in 1961. Jenny is under enormous pressure. Her father (Alfred Molina) pushes her to do well in order to get into the illustrious Oxford University. He doesn’t understand her interests (such as French films, different sorts of music, etc). Her life is completely boring to her, including an awkward would-be boyfriend (Matthew Beard). That all changes when she meets David (Sarsgaard). David is a much older man, roughly twice her age. He is extremely charismatic and, as one would expect, Jenny quickly falls for him.
David is able to show Jenny things she’s never seen before. He takes her to listen to “good” music. He takes her to art auctions and to greyhound races. He even takes her to Paris for her birthday, a place she’s been “dying to see.” Jenny is madly in love and quickly forgets about “her” Oxford dream. Despite the warnings of her English teacher (Williams) and a rather blunt head mistress (Emma Thompson), she loses interest in education. Of course, there’s more to David than any of them know. Once Jenny finds out, the damage has been done and it’s almost too late to rectify things. Almost.
Mulligan is excellent as Jenny. She hits all the right notes. She adventurous, free-spirited, and naive as a girl her age should be. She does it while being adorable the entire time. Her Oscar nomination was warranted and I doubt it’ll prove to be a fluke. The rest of the case is great as well. Sarsgaard is good in everything he does and the streak continues with the confident playboy with a secret. Molina is very good as a father who doesn’t quite understand his daughter, but wants only the best for her. Williams does well as Jenny’s mentor and Thompson is fantastic as the headmistress in a bit of an extended cameo.
While the performances prop the movie up, the story holds it down. It moves along well until David’s big secret is revealed. It doesn’t quite come out of nowhere, it’s completely foreshadowed; it’s the handling of it. Without giving away the entire plot, there are simply no ramifications for anything . We assume David just goes back to living his life as he always did. Jenny works hard to try to achieve her dream (and it does become her dream), she’s just not nearly as naive as she once was. The problem is that the point of the movie is lost on me. If everything turns out as they do (namely without any major consequences), what was the point?
Bottom Line: There are some outstanding performances throughout An Education. It’s a truly well acted movie. The cast all have good chemistry together and makes that aspect all rather believable. However, it ultimately becomes a forgettable movie. Despite the superb turn by Mulligan, one doesn’t need to see this film more than once. It’s a shame as Mulligan is really THAT good. The good news is that this won’t be the last we see of her.
Be back again tomorrow.