BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
JULY 22, 2010
Love is complex. Love can be sticky, undependable, sensitive, unstable, and perplexing. Of course, these are only one side of love. The characters in “An Education” experience all of these aspects of love. The characters ARE all of these aspects of love. The harsh reality of love is what envelopes the majority of this film.
Carey Mulligan plays 16- going on 17-year-old Jenny, a coming-of-age teenager out of touch with her surroundings. Living in dreams of the day she can freely listen to French music, walk the art-filled streets of Paris, and leave her immature boys and cello playing days behind her, Jenny instead lives under the rule of her father (Alfred Molina), who more than encourages her to emphatically focus on her studies.
The tides take a turn when Jenny meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), the suave older man that offers her a ride, literally and figuratively. From there on, David begins pseudo-dating Jenny, taking her out to fancy orchestra ensembles, to his friend’s art décored apartment, and even, yes, Paris. David even wins over Jenny’s parents, who naively insist Jenny accept David’s marriage proposal even if it means dropping out of school.
Everyone in the film is glamoured by David. I was not so easily duped. Perhaps it was the prior viewing of The Lovely Bones, and the fresh mental imagine of Stanley Tucci’s demented child-napping personification still looming in my memory, but to me, David came off as a complete creep. From approaching Jenny on the street in the rain to asking her to use a banana as her first sexual experience, my creep-detector was on red alert, and apparently, rightfully so.
The film develops a scenario where choosing sides is difficult. Jenny willingly allows herself to be conned to gain the life she always dreamed of, while her father does a one-eighty in no longer wanting Jenny to pursue Oxford to please David. David is working in his own best interest, but would easily be stopped if any of the characters would express the severity of the issues. All characters, with their self-interest and naivety, are at fault.
Do not be quick to argue the logistics of the film as it is based on the memoirs of British journalist Lynn Barber who lived the story of Jenny. Subtract a David and add a Simon, and the story reads right from her life with wanting the intangible, meeting her charmer willing to bridge that gap, and finding out that her innocence was simply not worth the price.
“An Education” progresses in a fashion designed to keep you unaware (minus the creep radar you may contain). As Jenny realizes the true nature of David, so does the viewer. The film is no ordinary love story and packs some worthwhile punches. Carey Mulligan delivers a knock-out in her first major role. Up for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay (winning none of the three), the film still proves its worthiness of the nominations.
Love is a thorny beast. You urge to savor it but feel the slivers left behind. Fictional Jenny and real-life Lynn Barber know the truth. View An Education and you, too, can feel that pain.
October 16, 2009
by Lynn Barber
Sony Pictures Classics
(for mature thematic material involving sexual content, and for smoking)
John de Borman