Sunday, November 1, 2009

An Education (2009) – Review

An Education begins a story of discover, in a sense, a journey of enlightenment, so it seems, and ultimately an awakening. The film is playful, witty, sparking off the charm of its young star, and yet there is an undercurrent, sort of a slimy, seedy, bottom belly wisp, not in plain site, but there, lurking (to which maybe can be solely attributed to the overall creepiness of Peter Sarsgaard – with no film hints necessary), playing a bit like Jane Eyre. The film runs into an interesting conundrum, seen often in literature (and horror films), with its third act, an act that is a bit of a let down, and really the only wrinkle on an otherwise unblemished film, said paradox being whether or not loose women should be punished (taken to mean that of your choosing) or let off (the dilemma arising as in: is it in bad form, old fashion and rather passé to delve out a fate befitting, in a prudish way, women that are less than intact with their choices, or rather to let them be unaffected, to let them off the hook and set a bad, if not wrong, example). The film addresses its position in such a way as to create obstacles, but manageable ones, speedily ramping up to a full recovery. The film which is primarily about growing up, questioning what is around you, seemingly ends with act two, now grown up, the film, facing maybe a far more interesting journey, chooses to not change tracks, almost as if the allotted time had expired, this ticket being only good for one jaunt (that of the audience, not character), and wraps everything up in a nice neat, and sadly clichéd, manner. For this is not a film about facing consequences, An Education is a film about wonder, exploration and proliferation (within). Director, Lone Scherfig, has excelled in capturing fine performances and uses blocking well. However, she at times is a bit carried away with tracking shots that create some awkwardness in the transition of the montage. Nick Hornby, know more as a novelist (About a Boy, High Fidelity and Fever Pitch) than a screenwriter, has done very well in creating fantastic dialog for the actors, and it is this language that allows the film, both in performance and tone, to enthrall and enchant. But again, both he and Scherfig might have restructured the film to not have a third act that does not play well (or not well enough for such a fine film). John de Borman, who previously has not had many projects to do great work (be it content or need), captures both the dreariness of England and the colour, much like the character, jumping out, as if it cannot wait to be free and shine. Lastly, from behind the camera, is the work of composer Paul Englishby, who supplies a fitting score (highlighted by a wonderfully playful opening number). In front of the camera, the cast is marvelous all around. Carey Mulligan breaks out in her performance as Jenny, the lead character; she is wonderful and plays upon the strengths of the script well. Sarsgaard is charming, but there is something uneven looming, which does work well. Oliva Williams, Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike (who deserves more films like this) supply perfectly pitched supporting performances. However, it is Alfred Molina that really comes out in the supporting cast. In a film built around the grandstand performance of Mulligan, it is Molina who indeed steals a few moments. An Education is a splendid film, while it could have structurally been sounder; it nonetheless works and leaves the audience happy. 8/10

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