Sunday, March 21, 2010

An Education (Review)

     I wasn't in the mood to see Disney re-bastardize two classic pieces of literature and I had seen everything else playing locally that was worth seeing, so it was time to drive a little and catch up on some limited release films.

     "An Education" is based on the memoir of Lynn Barber, a British journalist who, when she was sixteen in the early 1960s, was seduced by an older man.  I want to tread lightly here because it is very easy to give away too much and ruin this movie, but there are a few things that an American audience should know before seeing "An Education."  'A-levels' are sort of like British college entrance exams, 'sixth form' is a school or institution where students, usually sixteen to eighteen years old, take their last two, optional, years of school in order to study for their A-levels 'sixth form' is a student, usually sixteen to eighteen years old, who is taking their last two, optional, years of school in order to study for their A-levels, and Peter Rachman, the man at the dog track, is infamous for buying slums and moving in immigrants from the West Indies, who could live no where else, and extorting excessive rent from them.  Forgive me if that was over simplified, but it should get someone who didn't know through the movie.  (It would have helped me!)

     Still trying to tread lightly, Carey Mulligan is brilliant and convincing, as Jenny, an intelligent, charming, and beautiful sixteen year old girl who's just a bit too mature for her age.  She is seduced by David, played almost too well, by Peter Sarsgaard, a seemingly, wealthy, worldly, and very charming, older man.  He is also more than he appears to be and, in the end, so much less.  Before meeting David, everyone in Jenny's life knows her intelligence and potential, so they drive her toward the best formal education she can get, but once a man comes into her life, someone who can give her everything she would ever want, her teachers try to keep Jenny on course and her father, played notably by Alfred Molina, tries to steer her away from expensive Oxford and toward a life more exciting and charmed than his working class existence, and Jenny, ultimately, gets a far greater education than she had ever wanted.

     "An Education" is a well acted, well directed, and is a truly charming coming of age story as well as a true story.  It was well worth the wait and deserves every one of the awards it won, and maybe some of the ones it didn't. 


  1. I also just watched this last night and was very impressed with it. I think the great acting goes further than Molina and Mulligan (who the popular press decided to focus on) with Sarsgaard and Dominic Cooper both doing really well as well. I agree with a lot of your summation here.

    As a Brit, just a few further clarifications; 'A-Levels' are what Universities (American Colleges) use to decide whether you are good enough to attend or not but they are also quite high qualifications in their own right and many people leave college to work with them in their back pocket - they're a bit more than just entrance exams (the police force, for example, will not take applicants without an A-level or equivalent qualification but will take them without a degree). 'Sixth Form' doesn't refer to an individual student, rather the part of a school which deals with higher education (A-Levels). In England, this is also known as a College if it is a completely seperate body from a school and when students leave school at 16, most will go to a College or a Sixth Form, then on to University if they so wish (confused, you will be!), just thought it was worth adding those 'helpers' in their.

  2. Thanks for the clarifications! I was going off of some quick internet research myself, and there seemed to be a lot to it. I'm surprised to hear about the sixth form not actually referring to a student. I thought I heard people (on TV) say sixth former before, or is that like high-schooler, not actually a word, but people say it?

    Sarsgaard was so good he gave me the creeps. I know that his character is supposed to be creepy, but more than recognizing that, I was feeling it. Cooper is fairly under rated in this. I even forgot about him! But he's there almost as much as Sarsgaard and his acting is dead on. He's just not a main character and, he tends to get overshadowed a bit by more important characters who are also damn fine actors.

  3. Yup no problem and you are absolutely right;

    Sixth-form = an institution
    sixth former = colloquialism for a person who attends a sixth-form