Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Education, film review

Posted by lea at 1:39 PM
An Education is a coming of age tale about a bright young schoolgirl who is seduced by an older man. Thanks to a great script by Nick Hornby and the direction of Lone Scherfig, this story, based on the memoir of British journalist Lynn Barber, manages to be charming, light and even funny, without deprecating any of its characters.

The synopsis (from Sundance Film Festival):
Attractive, bright, 16-year-old Jenny is stifled by the tedium of adolescent routine; she can’t wait for adult life to begin. One rainy day her suburban existence is upended by the arrival of a much older suitor, David. Urbane and witty, David instantly charms Jenny and introduces her to a glittering new world of classical concerts, art auctions, smoky bars, and late-night suppers with his attractive friends. He replaces Jenny’s traditional education with his own more-dangerous version. Just as the family’s long-held dream of getting their brilliant daughter into Oxford has seemed within reach, Jenny is tempted by another kind of life.

The film depicts post-war 1961 London with authenticity – alternating between the dreariness of Jenny's Twickenham home and her well-meaning parents with their limited understanding, and the glamour of city life with David and his sophisticated friends. The actors, including a roll call of British talents like Emma Thompson, Peter Saarsgard, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams and Rosamund Pike, do a wonderful job, but Carey Mulligan, a relative unknown, shines in the star role.

The script, in my opinion, is nothing short of brilliant, and exactly what you'd hope for from Nick Hornby, author of About A Boy, High Fidelity and Fever Pitch, among other very good books. His dialogue is pitch-perfect, making the story charming rather than sordid, wry and moving instead of sad. Rather than focusing solely on the inappropriateness of Jenny and David's relationship, it explores the person and journey of the very charming and intelligent Jenny, whose verve strains against the limitations placed on her as a young female in the 1960s. Perhaps it's a rather ideal view of what Barber calls, 'a dark, shameful memory', but Hornby's interpretation creates 'sunlight and glamour' in a life lesson learnt the hard way.

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