May 2, 2010

#076: An Education 7/10

The coming of age story has been told in film time and time again.  An Education tells a similar tale to what we have seen before, but it does it really well.  This film combines great acting with a well-told story to succeed for most of the way.  It fell a little bit flat at the very end, but still manages a solid 7 out of 10.

An Education is set in a 1961 London suburb, and tells the story of a 16 year-old girl, Jenny (Carrie Mulligan),  who gets seduced by a an older man David (Peter Sarsgaard).  She doesn't so much get seduced by the man as much as the life she thinks he can offer.  As a teenager Jenny only knows of school, homework, and cello rehearsal.  It is easy to see how she falls for a life of jazz clubs, fancy restaurants and french films.  She is in love with the idea of a lifestyle, and it seems to be right within her grasp. 
Her studies, once paramount, now seem inconsequential.  She has dreamed of attending Oxford, but now it seems like a hassle that will ultimately lead her nowhere.  Jenny's mind is clouded by the romanticism of a life she thinks she wants, and her "real" life is starting to come of the tracks.

In a situation like this it would seem like it is the parents' job to nip things in the bud.  However, this man is charming, and very convincing.  The parents prove to be as naive as the child, and just as easily fall under the spell.  Her teachers make an effort to keep her on the right path.  It is tough to convince a teenager to turn her back on money and vanity, especially when that seems to be the path of least resistance.

I really enjoyed the style of this film, and was surprised by how engaging and entertaining the story was.  The setting, time period, and camera work made me feel like I was watching a film actually made in the time period.  The acting in the lead role by young Carrie Mulligan is really great.  I am looking forward to seeing what she does in the future.  Although I was disappointed when I saw her at the Oscars sporting the short blonde hair.  I much preferred her long dark hair she has in An Education.

I do not live in England, nor do I know what things were like in 1961, so I cannot pass judgement on the feasibility of the plot.  However, when I really thought about it, the story seems a bit far fetched.  Ironically it is based on the real-life experience of a woman named Lynn Barber.  I guess I just can't imagine a world where the parents would be so lax and accepting of this older man.  It explains it to a certain extent, but I feel like that is the one aspect of the film that was underdeveloped.

I would definitely recommend that you rent this film.  It is technically a romance, but not one between a man and a woman.  It is a romance between a young girl and a fantasy.  She is at the same time wise and naive, a feeling we all can identify with on some level.  I throughly enjoyed the film. Aside from some slight disappointment by the execution of the ending, I thought it was great film.

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