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Bob Doto [Celluloid 08.16.09] United Kingdom movie review drama romance

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Year: 2009
Directors: Lone Scherfig
Writers: Lynn Barber (memoir) & Nick Hornby
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Bob Doto
Rating: 7 out of 10

AN EDUCATION is Dead Poet’s Society if it was about a girl coming of age in pre-Beatles England and had nothing to do with a bunch of dudes at boarding school. It’s a great piece with all the right eerie twists and some of the best character complexities this side of The Sopranos. It’s also sappy, a bit forced in spots, and somewhat obvious. Basically it’s THE date film of the century, and a pleasure to watch for all the aforementioned qualities.


AN EDUCATION stars the perfectly stand-out-able Carey Mulligan as sixteen-year-old Jenny who is just dying to be cool and French and dripping with existential perplexities, while at the same time trying to understand why she should actually stay in her Oxford prep-school after she meets the perfectly matched, casted, and considerably older David, played by Peter Sarsgaard, whose more than she expected in all sorts of deviant ways, yet not all he’s cracked up to be in the sack. Jenny’s father is parochial and old-school and wants her to make something of herself studying Latin and the cello, while David is the embodiment of what’s to come in a few years time in London. With AN EDUCATION we’re thrown headfirst into the tipping point of 60s England. The French are still where it’s at, but the youth in England are getting ready to pounce. Jenny is the Future. Her father is the past. David is the spark that ignites the two.

I want people to see AN EDUCATION. Sarsgaard has got the “charm your overly stiff parents into letting your 17-year-old-daughter go away with you for the weekend” thing down pat. Mulligan brings the “I’m way too smart for school” approach wrapped up in her Audrey Hepburn circa Breakfast at Tiffany’s thing pinned to a T. The supporting cast each love their characters enough to make you love them, and the story ends just where you want it to.

The only problem is that some of that very same story, and some of those very same characters, rush into experiences and life changes in a way that had me wondering how much of the original cut needed to be shaved off for release. For instance, Jenny’s dad is (and we’re to assume, has always been) a bit of a stick-in-the-mud if not a complete totalitarian in the household. We’re never given the full story, and Jenny certainly has her way with him verbally, but he definitely rules the homestead. And yet, without even sounding a peep, David’s got him wrapped around his finger, and not just in a pleased sort of way. We’re talking, like, I was waiting for the dad to start making out with him. Where did this 180 come from? One minute Jenny’s father is screaming about how money doesn’t grow on trees, the next he’s handing over his daughter to some 30-something stranger in a roadster.

Same goes for Jenny’s relationship to David. I mean, unless I’m mistaken about the early sixties in England, but was it normal for some strange older man to pick up some young girl on the side of the road in his sports car just because it’s raining? And then for the two to fall in love after a five-minute car ride? Is that normal?

There’s also that whole scene where David’s right-hand-man Danny, played by the diabolically dreamy Dominic Cooper, kinda flirts with Jenny out of nowhere, but then ends up being the “I told you so” guy, complete with moral supremacy. Is he a composite character gone awry? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I loved hating Danny’s overt pretentiousness, but is he really supposed to be Jekyll and Hyde? I admit, I started to get a little whiplash trying to keep up with some of the character turns.

But, you know what? You forgive all that stuff. The story (written by Nick Hornsby and based on a twelve-page memoir by Lynn Barber) is a great one. You know, love is about the most complex thing the world has going for it, and so you look the other way when they quickly move the plot along, and you hold your date’s hand a little tighter every second Jenny and David are in a scene together, because you’re happy, and because you’re sad.

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