An Education Directed by: Lone Scherfig Cast: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: November 26, 2009
PLOT: Set in the 1960s in suburban London, this is a coming-of-age story about Jenny (Mulligan). This teenager's life is changed when a playboy (Sarsgaard) nearly twice her age shows some interest. Screenplay written by author Nick Hornby ("About a Boy," "High Fidelity").
WHO'S IT FOR? It's a period piece with a tough topic ... there's a big age difference in this relationship. Those looking for a strong (young) female lead, that may have a chance at an Oscar should make sure they see this film.
EXPECTATIONS: Peter Sarsgaard has been in a ton of films, but the last one I really liked was Jarhead. I knew nothing about director Lone Scherfig, whose other films are Hjemve and Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself.
ACTORS: Carey Mulligan as Jenny: Wow. She looks like a young Audrey Tautou (Amélie). She's completely captivating. The goal is for Jenny to head off to Oxford, to get an education. It's the only path she's known because of her overbearing father, and because she's still just a kid. Watching her get an education is painful, powerful and ultimately rewarding. Score: 9
Peter Sarsgaard as David: That first moment where David meets Jenny. It almost seems like they already know each other. It creates an odd comfort and puts us at ease. That's the power of Saragaard's David. He puts the audience at ease even though he's twice Jenny's age. He's a charmer, a manipulator, and he's good. Yet, when his character begins to unravel, you see the insecurity as well. It's a very difficult role and Sarsgaard makes it look easy. Score: 8
Alfred Molina as Jack: Whether it's explaining the point of the cello, or complaining about the "good luck" flowers that Jenny receives, Molina as the dad just fits perfectly. Score: 8
Rest of Cast: It's a great cast of women with Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson, Rosamund Pike, and Cara Seymour. Pike is the perfect example of what looks and no drive can still do for a woman. Seymour plays Jenny's mother and rarely speaks up in her family. Williams and Thompson play strong women who appear to have settled for boring stability. It's a rare film that can showcase so many different aspects of a woman's life. Score: 7
TALKING: Maybe it's just me, but I was waiting to find out exactly how old Jenny was. They don't say for what seems like forever. That had me hoping for a different answer than what was eventually revealed. Beyond that, Jenny definitely talks a big game, and seems very aware of herself even though she's just a teenager. Score: 7
SIGHTS: It's good enough to look like "Mad Men" in Europe. And throughout the film, even though Jenny only ages a couple months there's great detail in her attempting to become a young woman in looks and attitude. Score: 8
SOUNDS: The start of the film sounds like a fun, swinging good time, which seems slightly out of place after the power of hindsight. There is time given to classical music to showcase how Jenny is getting access to the world she only dreamed of, and the score flows right along with the film. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: It's so odd to want to see David be a charmer. Bringing Jenny's parents out of their shell is impressive and fun. Even though this comes with the purpose being so David can take Jenny away for the weekend.
ENDING: It's a little simple. Instead of simply ending, there is a montage that doesn't fit with the rest of the film, but at least the focus is strictly on Jenny and her path.
QUESTIONS: What's the age for statutory rape in England?
REWATCHABILITY: Now that I know the parameters, I could absolutely sit through this film again, just to watch the great acting.
Age is not just a number. There's nothing worse than seeing a young person taken advantage of. With that being said, An Education does the best job I've seen of watching the power an older man can have over a younger woman. This is a great examination of different classes in the 60s in England. More importantly, it's a chance to see what this intelligent, adorable teenager will do when put up against the charms of an older man. What starts out seeming like David can show Jenny the world, quickly becomes a focus in right vs. wrong, insecurity and independence ... and the concept of hard work vs. the easy way out.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10