An Education

posted Dec 18, 2009, 3:15 PM by Jeff Brandt
I've been putting off two reviews for too long (An Education & A Serious Man), and as of this weekend, I now have a couple more on the way (Precious & Avatar). With Oscar season coming, these are all films worth seeing if you can catch them. I happen to know that if you're a C-U resident / U of I student that will be there over the holidays, you can catch A Serious Man at Boardman's Art Theatre -- and I personally caught An Education there on my last visit a couple weekends ago.

By the way: support Boardman's Art Theatre while you still can . . . Greg Boardman will no longer be the operator within a matter of weeks. Who knows what it will be like when it changes hands. 

An Education

Carey Mulligan dazzles the silver screen as a younger, British, Audrey Hepburn-wannabe: Jenny Mellor. This 1960s coming-of-age story features Alfred Molina as Jenny's strict, success-driven father and Peter Sarsgaard as the wealthy and charming (yet unscrupulous) David Goldman.

Jenny is bored by her suburban life at a private girls' school, despite being at the top of her class and Oxford-bound. Obsessed with high culture to the point of quoting French phrases out of the blue, she perceives her random meeting with David, a much older man, as her shot at a life of browsing art galleries and attending operas and chamber orchestra concerts -- without all the trouble of dull hours spent memorizing Latin and writing essays. As it turns out, though, her adoption of a new, exciting, and romantic lifestyle will not come without a price.

I fully enjoyed An Education, though I don't see what makes it special. Is it its frank and unashamed exploration of what happens when a 16-year-old girl loses herself in love with an older man? It is true that this situation would be seen as taboo in America today. Your average hack director probably would have painted David as a creepy pedophile luring her into a trap, instead of a debonair gentleman able to woo Jenny's unwinnable father. And I can't say it wasn't interesting. The actors are engaging, London looks great, and the plot turns work without a hitch.

Even so . . . An Education seems to be missing a certain something that puts it in Oscar territory. The majority of the story takes us off into what must be a teenage girl fantasy world -- having an older man who is willing to provide you with whatever baubles and worldly experiences you want, and able to charm your parents well enough to get away with it. The end, however, seems to hail from the bygone Hayes Code era. Those who did wrong must make amends for their misdeeds, for not following their social scripts. It's not horrible, but it's not horribly original, either.

I recommend seeing it, but not as much as I would recommend seeing the other three films to be reviewed on INK FIST in the near future: A Serious Man (duh, it's a Coen film), Avatar (did not think I would be recommending this, but I am), and Precious (simply stunning).

And I still need to catch Fantastic Mr. Fox (playing at Chase Park Plaza Cinema in St. Louis), Hurt Locker (playing at the Tivoli), and Up in the Air (playing at the Moolah Lounge). Looks like this coming week is going to be Clooneytastic.


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