Tuesday, November 24, 2009

AN EDUCATION: The Film Babble Blog Review

AN EDUCATION (Dir. Lone Scherfig, 2009)

It certainly isn’t a “meet cute” when 16 year old school girl Carey Mulligan is offered a ride home from Peter Sarsgaard in his snazzy sports car, but it isn’t exactly a “meet creep” either. Though Sarsgaard has a creepy reputation (his monologue on SNL a few years back was completely about how creepy he can be) here his character is a charming witty Englishman who has the ticket to an opulent new life for Mulligan, one filled with elegant culture and reams of romance. Or so it seems.

Set in a pre-Beatlemania Britain that Mulligan repeatedly calls “boring”, and based on a recently published memoir by Lynn Barber, the story is a simple coming of age one. Mulligan is impressed by Sarsgaard – a man able to charm her parents (a wonderfully befuddled Alfred Molina and a smirking Cara Seymour) into letting her go to a concert and dinner for their first date. 

Sarsgaard then reaches further with overnight trips to Oxford and Paris while Mulligan’s school mates blush with envy and her teacher (Olivia Williams) and headmistress (Emma Thompson) disapprove.

Our pithy protagonist is a bit taken aback when she discovers that her new beau is an art thief and a slick wheeler and dealer involved in blockbusting (the practice of moving minorities into apartments to make old racist women vacate so the apartments can be purchased cheaply), but she’s still soft for Sarsgaard.

As the first solo screenplay written by Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity”, “About A Boy”, “Fever Pitch” and their respective film adaptations) one of the best modern novelists working today, AN EDUCATION is tightly written with sharp realistic dialogue and a touching tone. It is, perhaps is a bit too tightly written as the last act has some pat payoffs and all too tidy summations of character’s realizations. 

That doesn't stop it from being a sweet little gem of a movie with great chemistry between the actors and a very satisfying ending. I doubt it will win any awards but I bet it’ll make a bunch of “best of 2009” year end lists. Although, not sure yet if it’ll make mine.

More later...


Adam said...

I agree with much of what you said. The film (and Saarsgard's character) manages to ride the extremely fine line between creepy and charming. In these times when we so often see stories in the news about sexual misconduct toward minors, the fact that "An Education" manages that tightrope so well is nothing short of a minor miracle.

I also agree that the last act wraps up things much too tidily. I would have preferred a more ambiguous ending, with some loose ends. That said, it's definitely a very solid film. We'll see if it makes my best of list too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I agree completely with what you point out about the final part of the film. The makers had a problem with how to finish http://wp.me/pDjed-6h as I heard the screenplay writer Nick Hornby admit this week.
However, it's still an excellent film, moving and hilarious. Well worth seeing. Best I've seen this year.