Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An Education

Review by Rob McKinnon

Opening Date: 10/30/09
Running Time: 95 min
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Lone Scherfig
Screenplay by Nick Hornby
Adapted from a memoir by Lynn Barber

As I started to write this review, I found myself about to write that I'm not usually a fan of "coming of age" films. It suddenly occurred to me that I too often begin a review with the idea: "I'm not usually a fan of...." This is really not quite correct. What I'm not a fan of are ill-conceived, badly done films no matter the genre or subject matter. So for this review let me begin by saying there are and have been way too many really dumb or derivative coming-of-age movies made. This film, AN EDUCATION, is, however a brilliant exception to that assessment for a vast number of reasons.

Firstly, it has a fully realized story that is much more than about the onset of teenage sexual awareness. AN EDUCATION is the story of a teenage girl's coming-of-age, i.e., not another visiting of the horny teenage boy coming-of-age formula film. It is set in 1961 London. (Though I don't like to admit it, this probably makes it a period film to the younger audience. Geez, this is my period, it really doesn't seem that long ago.) Anyway, London was at that time a city passing through the change from the drab-gray, postwar 1950's to the glamorous and liberated decade ahead. The setting and atmosphere are wonderfully and authentically captured by the film. The young girl whose story is told, "Jenny," is played with absolute believability and conviction by Carey Mulligan. Sixteen-year-old Jenny is a truly brilliant, extremely witty, and winningly attractive private school girl. Her father, played by the always interesting Alfred Molina, is absolutely focused on her being accepted to Oxford University. Both of her parents are extremely conservative, a condition with which Jenny seems comfortable or, at least, accepting. The only boy in her life is a bicycle-riding, immature, and somewhat "geeky" kid she's known forever. Her life, however, is about to change as she receives a very different and very real life education.

Her life teacher is the utterly unsuitable, urbane, and witty 30-something, "David," played to perfection by Peter Sarsgaard. David, with the skill of a practiced con man, charms her parents and introduces Jenny to a glittering new world of classical concerts and late-night suppers with his attractive friend and business partner "Danny" (Dominic Cooper) and Danny's girlfriend, a vacuous but beautiful "Helen" (Rosamund Pike). Ms. Pike plays clueless and empty-headedness as only a truly intelligent actress can. There is much going on with all of them which I will leave for you to discover when you see this exceptional film for yourself. Will Jenny realize the value of her previous life and goals or will she be seduced away by the temporal and shallow pleasures offered by her new friends? Will David turn out to be her true and lasting love? What about her current school life? Her attaining entrance into Oxford? See for yourself, and please don't miss this absolutely delightful film.
It opens Friday, October 30, in Houston, at Landmark's River Oaks Theater.

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