Review: An Education

An Education | Lone Sherfing, 2009

Although everyone tends to feel different about education, I think we can all agree that at some point in our lives it felt like school was never going to end, and when it did, that we would be slaves to the workforce. I know about this because I’m going through that exact phase right now. Because of this, I can identify with what compelled Jenny (Carey Mulligan) to do what she did, and this is what kept An Education, along with a few other things, from being an average movie. However, it fell short of greatness due it’s ending.

This film, set in the 1960s, follows Jenny, a smart 16-year-old girl who is excelling in all her classes. She does all this so that she may be accepted to Oxford. She has the support of her parents, although her dad can sometimes be too strict and over-the-top. One day she meets David (Peter Sargaard), and her life changes completely. He is a man in his thirties and promises that she will show her stuff that she has never seen before. She falls for him, as well as her parents, so now Jenny faces the choice of marrying the man of her dreams or going to Oxford. However, since this is a movie, things can’t be that easy.

There are two reasons why I liked this movie: the direction and the performances. Lone Sherfing’s work is not very showy, but she manages to put us in the time period and we never forget that we are in the 60s. Also, she got great performances out of the entire cast. Mulligan is a revelation as Jenny. She commands the screen from the moment we first see her, and she never loses that command. Sargaard is good at playing creeps, so he excels here once again. From the supporting cast, the standouts are Alfred Molina as Jenny’s dad and Rosamund Pike as the dim-witted friend to David. Molina plays a parent who wants the best for his child to perfection. I know this because my dad is almost exactly like him. And Pike plays a rather over-the-top character, but her performance is manages to be very controlled.

The main problem with the movie is the script however. Nick Hornby does a good job in grabbing us with the dialogue and set up for the first two acts. However, it begins to fall apart in the end. I’m not complaining about what happens, because it seems logical, plus it’s based on a true story. The problem is that the third act was too rushed. Since I can’t talk about the end without giving it away. So, I’ll just say that I’m disappointed at how the third act played out.

An Education definitely deserved its Oscar nomination for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actress. I would have preferred it if Mulligan instead of Sandra Bullock in the Actress category (but my pick would have been Sidibe or Streep). Despite that one big flaw, the acting, the directing, and the rest of the script really hit the mark on what life feels like when you’re in school, therefore making this one of the best movies of the year.

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