Saturday, December 26, 2009

An Education (2009)


Attending a school with mundane curriculum, Jenny (Carey Mulligan) struggles to balance her passion for french films, and music, with her parents overbearing push for her to attend Oxford. One day she runs into an older gentleman, Danny (Peter Sarsgaard) who takes her to concerts, auctions, and even Paris. Slowly falling for Danny, Jenny must decide between her desires, and her parents plans.

Featuring a strong cast, An Education is a nice little indie film, that works because of its strengths, and in spite of its weaknesses. Simply put An Education is an analysis on the trials of a teenage girl whose life has been well mapped out, almost to the point of exaggeration. Her controlling father (Alfred Molina, in an oscar nomination worthy role) has strictly planned out her life, and despite her best efforts to rebel, Jenny is unable to escape his simple plan. Though of course Danny's charm, intellect, and quick thinking seems to be just the wrench Jenny has always wanted to throw into the machine. As such Danny becomes a representation of adulthood for Jenny, the two proceed through a series of events, in which Danny brings Jenny outside the confines of the school and gives her a bit of real life learning (whether she likes what she learns or not is a different story).

Unfortunately though, despite my profound love for the setup and what the characters had to offer, I found myself left indifferent to the adventure once the credits rolled. An Education is filled with great moments, character scenes, and the acting is simply to die for, but I often felt disconnected from the events occurring. Almost as if I was in a classroom, founded by events that sounded and looked fascinating but were never explored in enough depth to truly make something of it. That's not to say there's necessarily anything wrong with An Education either. David and Jenny's characters feel authentic, flawed, and connected in a unique way. David's good friend Danny (Dominic Cooper), and Danny's girlfriend Helen (Rosamund Pike in a rather mundane role), provide much of the films good balance, opposing the strong parental figure of Malina and Cara Seymour with a far more carefree lifestyle.

Though I fear to say that none of the film would have worked without the breakthrough performance of Carey Mulligan. The solid direction helps, but it's really Mulligan's subtle and involved portrayal of a teenage girl's hopes and dreams that elevates An Education above just another coming of age story. It's a tale of education in the different aspects of life, the good and the bad, and how such events can shape our lives. Jenny gives many things for Danny, on the idealistic dream of a greater life outside her parents confines, and yet is forced to face the reality that sometimes what you need and what you want aren't necessarily the same thing. It's a good story, with some ok writing, solid direction, and great acting. It holds together, and will likely heavily appeal to its target demographic, I'm just not amongst that crowd.

While there's much to admire, respect, and love about An Education it never struck a big enough cord with me to earn a spot among the year's top tier films.

5 better thoughts:

The Mad Hatter said...

Great review!

As you know by now, I quite liked it...part of it might be for the fact that I actually dug Rosamund Pike's character. She has a lot of subtly to it that collects itself into a warning sign that Jenny should notice, but doesn't.

For what it's worth, this was a film that got better and better the more I thought back on it. Maybe you'll dig it even more later.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Dang it, so you weren't a big fan. I'm not *very* surprised, but it's interesting to note the strong praise for Mulligan and Molina among lovers and non-lovers of the film. I still haven't seen it. Sucks.

Univarn said...

@Mad Yeah. I get what Rosamund Pike's character in a sense represented, but I didn't care much for it, and never felt like the character was developed.

@Andrew while writing this review I literally though to myself: "Andrew is going to love this movie" lol. If you don't I'll be quite shocked.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Ha. You're on to me.

The Mad Hatter said...

@ Univarn... That's the whole thing though was that she was there as a subtle reminder. She and Jenny could have had a dramatic heart-to-heart to spell it all out, but that wouldn't be the sort of thing she'd find the gumption to do...and it's something Jenny should have been smart enough to pick up on anyway.

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