Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: An Education

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 21 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

An Education (2009)
Running minutes: 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexual content, and for smoking
DIRECTOR: Lone Scherfig
WRITER: Nick Hornby (from the memoir by Lynn Barber)
PRODUCERS: Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John de Borman (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Barney Pilling
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Cara Seymour, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Matthew Beard, and Emma Thompson

An Education is, at the very least, an exceptional coming-of-age film because it is exceptionally well-directed and well-written, and the actors give high-quality performances. However, it is Carey Mulligan’s star-making turn that anchors An Education.

Set in England in 1961, An Education focuses on Jenny Mellor (Carey Mulligan), a bright schoolgirl who is focused on taking and passing the A-levels, the exams that could help her get into Oxford. She meets David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard), a charming, older Jewish man, and the two begin a relationship that steadily leads to romance. David even manages to charm Jenny’s protective parents, Jack played by Alfred Molina, giving his usually fine performance, and Marjorie (Cara Seymour).

David introduces Jenny to his fast lifestyle and to his friends, Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Danny’s girlfriend, Helen (Rosamund Pike, who is so radiantly beautiful that she steals practically every scene in which she appears). Jenny becomes torn between studying for a place at Oxford and enjoying the more exciting and fun alternative lifestyle that David offers, but then, she must also confront the darker side of David’s freewheeling lifestyle.

In creating Jenny Mellor, Carey Mulligan fashioned the kind of female character that carries a drama all the way to victory. Mulligan convincingly gives Jenny that cheeky arrogance which makes high school age teens believe they know how to live a much better life than any adult they know has ever lived. Jenny is a clever girl, and Mulligan makes sure her smarts shine through every time. This is a rich, multi-layered performance that absorbs everything that An Education is trying to convey to its audience and makes it crystal clear.

Mulligan’s wonderful turn almost eclipses the exceedingly fine performance by the underrated Peter Sarsgaard as David. Sarsgaard deftly keeps David’s secrets close to him, making David act as the perfect foil for Jenny’s haughty smarts, but Sarsgaard also gives David an edge that is somehow too sweet to resist. Sarsgaard’s wonderful contribution and Mulligan’s terrific performance make An Education a coming-of-age story that will work its magic through the ages.

8 of 10

2010 Academy Awards: 3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Carey Mulligan), and “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published” (Nick Hornby)

2010 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Leading Actress” (Carey Mulligan); 7 nominations: “Best Costume Design” (Odile Dicks-Mireaux), “Best Director” (Lone Scherfig), “Best Film” (Amanda Posey and Finola Dwyer), “Best Make Up & Hair” (Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou), “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Nick Hornby), “Best Supporting Actor” (Alfred Molina), and “Outstanding British Film” (Amanda Posey, Finola Dwyer, Lone Scherfig, and Nick Hornby)

2010 Golden Globes: 1 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Carey Mulligan)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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