Review: AN EDUCATION (2009) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Review: AN EDUCATION (2009)


Coming-of-age films are nothing new, but in AN EDUCATION, Danish director Lone Scherfig and screenwriter Nick Hornby craft a wonderful genre film that is both realistic and poignant. That's not all, this is the film that will forever remembered as 24-year-old Carey Mulligan's breakthrough performance who is believable playing a 16-year-old girl so eager to enjoy life the way she always wanted. Her acting is both enchanting and mesmerizing she's definitely an up-and-coming actress to look for in the future. 

Based on the memoir by Lynn Barber, the film sets in the London suburb of Twickenham, circa 1961. At the beginning, we see high-schooler Jenny (Mulligan) who lives with her parents, Jack (Alfred Molina) and Marjorie (Cara Seymour) is a textbook example of an excellent student striving for the best in education in hope to earn a scholarship to Oxford. But beneath the surface lies a stroke of rebellion inside her waiting to get out one day. While her father pushes her to study Latin she has little interest for, she is more keen to learn French culture and wants her life to be more lively than just sticking to the same old mundane routine each and every day. Then along comes a charming stranger named David (Peter Sarsgaard) whom she comes across one rainy afternoon. He is kind enough to offer her a ride home that in no time, she starts to like him a lot. Soon her mundane life opens up a whole new world as David begins to sweep Jenny off to classical concerts, upscale nightclubs, and weekend trips to Oxford and Paris along with his friends, Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Helen (Rosamund Pike). Jenny is so preoccupied with her newfound joy of freedom taste for enjoying life to the fullest that she is slowly neglected her studies. Despite the fact that David is twice Jenny's age, her parents doesn't deny them to hang out together especially they find out David is a brilliant charmer who knows how to make their daughter happy and well-treated. But Jenny is gradually learns the shady side of how David maintains the income that allows him to lead such a freewheeling life. Still she doesn't mind at all since David is too irresistible to let go of. She even decides to give up her schooling altogether and agrees to marry him. Her seemingly pitch-perfect decision takes a harsh turn once she learns David is not the ideal suitor she thought he was. 
Blessed with a thoughtful screenplay by Nick Hornby, he's certainly has a keen ear for naturalistic dialogue and also crafted a believable portrait of a smart but ultimately naive 16-year-old schoolgirl who is given a first taste of life to explore, experiment, and see the world differently. For Jenny, she knows it's a risk worth taking as she strongly believes that there are more education far beyond than what she could learn within the confines of a four-walled classroom. She keeps thinking she is doing the right thing for her own future -- that is living the carefree life -- but doesn't realize the grave mistake she has gradually made. Jenny's professor, Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams) knows this the second she sees her prized student is drifting away to her own naivety. Not only that, the school's headmistress (Emma Thompson) makes it clear to her that if Jenny misses her first chance at an academic future, she might risking no second chance at all. 
Apart from a stunning turn by Carey Mulligan, the rest of the actors are as equally strong especially Alfred Molina's vivid performance in an otherwise typically hypocrite father role and Olivia Williams's heartfelt performance as the sympathetic Miss Stubbs who can't stand watching Jenny going to lose herself into uncertain future. Only Peter Sarsgaard falters a bit as David. No doubt he's a charmer and definitely born to play the kind of carefree playboy role, it's quite unfortunate his character is somehow underwritten that he is treated more like a caricature than a flesh-and-blood being. 
The climatic finale, in the meantime, has a certain mixed feeling especially how the supposedly gloomy ending turns out to be -- let's just say -- surprisingly too optimistic and too neat for its own good. 
On the other bright side, director Lone Scherfig does a terrific job for cruising her picture with equal nuance and poignancy, while accomplishing the subtle look and feel of the 1960s pre-Beatles Britain. 
Not surprisingly, the technical credits are top-notch: John DeBorman's cinematography is both breezy and vivid; Paul Englishby's music score hits all the right note of the particular era of sound; Andrew McAlpine's pitch-perfect production design; and Odile Dicks-Mireaux's superb costumes design.

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