Sunday, January 3, 2010
Review - An Education
In An Education, 16 year-old British schoolgirl Jenny Miller (excellently played by Carey Mulligan) is determined to convince everyone that she is mature beyond her years and that people treat her as a woman, rather than a girl. She fabricates an illusion of maturity with her self-consciously refined taste in music, literature, film, and even cigarettes. She is fed up with her boring studies and insistent urging for an Oxford education from her parents (the never-better Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour). When Jenny forms an unusual relationship with a charming older man (Peter Sarsgaard, skillfully avoiding what could have been a creepy vibe), her eyes are opened up to the world of fine art and high culture for which she always yearned, and for which she is prepared to abandon her schooling. But of course, she is still only a child, and her girlish confidence in this seemingly perfect life is a dangerous investment.
Based on a memoir by Lynn Barber, Nick Hornby's screenplay is witty, insightful, restrained, efficient, and just about everything you want a good screenplay to be. The actors chosen understand the thematic subtleties of the script, and all of them give expert performances. Mulligan's arc from illusionment to disillusionment is terrifically rendered, and Alfred Molina is simply wonderful as her stern but well-meaning father, finding just the right tone of droll bumbling and endearing authenticity.
The film is handsomely crafted in every aspect. Nothing too flashy or attention-seeking, but the feel of the period – 1960's Britain – is preserved. The costumes are particularly chic and character-serving, and the music is right on the nose (that includes both Paul Englishby's score and Beth Rowley's song “You've Got Me Wrapped Around Your Little Finger).
Nominations for Picture, Actress, and Adapted Screenplay are in the cards. Alfred Molina's baffling absence from most precursors is nothing short of criminal. He deserves to win the Oscar, let alone earn a nomination. Hopefully voters won't be suckered into giving Matt Damon an automatic nod for Invictus (more on that film another day).
***1/2 out of ****