An Education

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Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Oct 29, 2009 11:42 pm

I'm flummoxed.

All the hosanahs for this wee thing? This amiable, moderately entertaining, slightly over-broad bit of formula? Long ago, festivals and independent film movements were created to counter such stilted Hollywood projects. But since "An Education" is not only an indpendent film but also a breakout festival hit, it only demonstrates that we're grateful for anything we can get, so starved we are for a bygone era of quality, tasteful films. Mulligan is an enticing central focus, but comparisons with Audrey Hepburn are unfair (maybe it's the cheekbones), and for a charming, seductive Brit, Sarsgaard is weak tea.

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Postby Mister Tee » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:14 pm

What a lovely movie; fairly close to perfect within its own bounds. It feels quite like a movie of its era -- The Girl with Green Eyes; Georgy Girl -- although it's probably more esthetically conservative than most of the Brit films of that era, which were trying out alot of the "new/hip" film techniques. Which actually points up a built-in irony of the film: you can fully understand Jenny's boredom/dissatisfaction with a Britain still stuck in its post-war end-of-empire depression. But about 2-3 years after the film's action, England was where the entire world was looking for cultural stimulation.

Mulligan gets one of the few full-bodied female roles we've seen this year (and maybe the lat several), and she's glorious in it -- smart and pretty, as teacher Williams describes her, and funny and insightful, and yet still young/foolish enough to be taken in by something of a charlatan. If I have any quibble with the film, it's that Jenny doesn't seem to suffer very much for this mistake. Yeah, she has to eat humble pie, and study hard (for, what, 30 seconds of screen time?) -- but in the end she loses nothing from her misadventure. (It's as if all those warning her were totally wrong) I'm not saying I wanted to see her punished a la The Sin of Madelon Claudet, but I felt this way she got off a bit easy.

Back to Mulligan: she's clearly an Oscar nominee, and probably the best I've seen so far this year. But somehow winning an Oscar feels like too much too soon for the youngster. I'd rather her build a career and win somewhere down the line.

Molina is very funny throughout (I agree with BJ's citing of his "writer" line, which expresses British class envy as well as anything I've ever heard), and that final scene -- where he tenderly chides Jenny for her own role in the deception -- makes him a cinch supporting actor nominee (years after he was robbed for Frida).

I'm on the positive side with Pike, largely because she didn't make the obvious choice of playing her character like a full ditz -- the Goldie Hawn dithering style that telegraphs dumbness. As it was, it often took a moment for her complete ignorance to register with me: I wasn't expecting her to be so dumb because she didn't outwardly SEEM dumb.

Also props to Williams for making her character deeply memorable in short spurts...and to Emma Thompson for not softening her role's loathsome aspects.

After a sluggish early year, I'm starting to be happy with a number of the films I've seen, this one included. It's not a year for the ages yet, but also not the repeat of last year I'd initially feared.

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Postby Uri » Fri Oct 23, 2009 4:00 pm

I agree with most of the good things said here – a lovely film. And while at first I found it to be a little bit slight, as it moved forward and even more so, as I think about it, it turns out to be even more interesting and poignant. So here are a few scattered notions I'd like to share.

1. English Existentialism. This oxymoron is being smartly explored here. Do you thing that the Greco loving Jenny read Bonjour tristesse? Anyway, her very English sensibility, self irony and matter-of-fact-ness – all those characteristics which make her so fetching – are making her stint as a La Rive Gauche gal seem so impossible at the end.

2. The same year the film version of Bonjour tristesse was made, Audrey Hepburn, whose name is so frequently mention in association with Mulligan's performance, made her two Parisian movies – as an intellectual bookworm who's dreaming of going to Paris and is made into a lovely butterfly by an older man in Fanny Face and as a much mature for her age, cello playing girl who falls in love with an aging playboy in Love in the Afternoon.

3. Mulligan and Rosamund Pike (count me in with those who think she was kind of a revelation here) played Kitty and Jane Bennet in the recent, pointless adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I wish they had waited a couple of years so they could have cast the now established Mulligan, who was born to play Elizabeth Bennet, as the lead instead of that graceless, talent free stick they've used.

4. On an Israeli radio show about cinema today, these two critics were discussing (and dismissing) An Education (renamed in Hebrew Educating Jenny – Jenny/Rita – get it?). Anyway, they made a big fuss about this movie being anti-Semitic, even dragging Jew Süss into their debate. I must say I was a little stunned, since I found the way this film addressed the issue of hard core, pure Englishness being threatened by new and foreign ideas, conventions and indeed people of other backgrounds and ethnicities to be one of its virtues.

5. Oh, one more thing, which can be related, I guess, to the Roman Polanski debate. I know it is based on an autobiographical story, but it was written (very nicely) by a man of a certain age, and one can't help tracing a little bit of dwelling in the notion that the girl is the kind of more mature side of this pairing. It is done very intelligently and it works, largely due to Mulligan's ability to convey the right kind of maturity which is possible in few, distinctively rare, youngsters.

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Postby Precious Doll » Fri Oct 23, 2009 4:57 am

I enjoyed An Education the more it went on and thought that the films climax worked very well. It's beautiful directed by Lone Schergih with great attention to period detail and costumes. It's always terrific when a filmmaker can transport to another time and place.

Carey Mulligan is, as everyone has already stated, wonderful in the lead role and is an almost certain Best Actress nominee.

Olivia Williams was the most impressive of the supporting players. She gave so much with so little.

I was indifferent to Peter Sarsgaard though. He lacked charm and came across as a little sleazy, but then it is about his relation with a 16 year old schoolgirl, not a woman of the world.

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Postby Cinemanolis » Tue Oct 13, 2009 2:49 am

It is a charming film, but i don't think it will end up in my top10 of the year. Carey Mulligan is a revelation, and Alfred Molina is certain to be a major player at the supporting actor awards.
I too enjoyed Rosamund Pike. Her character may not have been very well written, but she certainly pulled it off, and was very funny and memorable.

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Postby Okri » Mon Oct 12, 2009 7:53 pm

I'll just echo BJ's thoughts, though I felt a touch put-off by the way the film pulls back from the Jenny-David relationship. Also I really liked Rosamund Pike. And though no review mentions her, Olivia Williams is really awesome too.

And yeah, Mulligan vaults to the head of the list, oscarwise.

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Postby The Original BJ » Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:03 pm

I think a lot of people are going to like An Education, as I did. Some friends my age saw it this weekend and swooned over it; the ladies sitting next to me in the theater with walkers and canes had a ball. It's surprisingly funny, quite entertaining, and climaxes with some poignant dramatic oomph.

I think what I liked most about the film was the way it neither glamorizes nor recoils from the older man/teenage girl romance. Clearly the film suggests that the relationship between David and Jenny isn't ideal, and it wouldn't be even without some of David's extracurricular activities. The film accurately captures the way that people of different ages are almost always in very different places in their lives, and how a romance between such partners can be both appealing and challenging.

But at the same time, Peter Sarsgaard's character, while charming in a very smarmy sort of way, is clearly not a predator. You can understand why Jenny's parents fall for him, and why they begin to support their daughter's relationship. Although he's dishonest, his untruthfulness would plague his relationship with a woman of any age, and though Jenny's youthfulness certainly exacerbates their conflict, I like that David isn't portrayed as a skeevy creep. (I'm sort of trying to dance around the details of the big plot points here, so excuse the vagueness.)

Carey Mulligan is headed straight to the Oscars. She is utterly beguiling -- absolutely charming throughout, hugely appealing in her comic bits, and with some powerful dramatic moments during the last reel. Without being hyperbolic, watching this breakthrough performance made me realize what audiences must have felt like the first time they saw Audrey Hepburn.

I also really enjoyed Alfred Molina. He's got some enjoyable theatrics, plenty of laughs (including the film's biggest -- "Becoming a famous novelist isn't the same as..."), and a really touching scene with Mulligan at the film's end. I view him as a strong Supporting Actor contender.

I didn't much like Rosamund Pike's character. I thought the actress and the script hit those notes of materialistic buffoonery a little too hard. And I would have liked one more scene with Olivia Williams at film's end, explicating her final actions a bit more.

But it's overall a very appealing film, one I think has a very good shot at a Best Picture nomination, in addition to the actors, Nick Hornby's very witty script. The question mark -- will Lone Scherfig join a likely Kathryn Bigelow in the Best Director race, marking the first time two ladies have landed in that category?

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Postby Precious Doll » Sun Sep 06, 2009 6:31 am

kaytodd wrote:Actually, not a real review from a professional, just some very favorable comments from a blogger named Michael Bialis. I do not know anything about him. But I was encouraged by the review, he appears to be knowledgeable and he also reports that Up In The Air is being shown this evening. I am looking forward to reading what critics say about that one.

The reviews I have read in relation to this film as it's been doing the festival circuit are amongst the best of the year.

Sight unseen I think Oscar might smile on this one. Relative newcomer Carey Mulligan has been singled out for the highest of praise by all.

I had an opportunity to see it several months ago but circumstance beyond my control prevent my attending, much to my regret.

I did see a trailer for this film at the cinema a week ago and though it looked ordinary but Lone Scherfig has made two of my favorite films of the last ten years, Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself and Italian for Beginners.
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Postby kaytodd » Sat Sep 05, 2009 7:21 pm

Actually, not a real review from a professional, just some very favorable comments from a blogger named Michael Bialis. I do not know anything about him. But I was encouraged by the review, he appears to be knowledgeable and he also reports that Up In The Air is being shown this evening. I am looking forward to reading what critics say about that one.
Author: Michael Bialas — Published: Sep 05, 2009 at 2:38 pm 0 comments

BC TV/Film Sponsor
Advertise here nowThis is the first in a series of reports from the Telluride Film Festival. The event customarily held over the Labor Day weekend returned for its 36th season September 4-7. Coverage will include a quick look at a film screened the previous night; highlights of some of the group discussions and celebrity appearances; and word on the streets (or the tweets) about who or what might be creating the most showbiz buzz.

Friday’s sneak review: An Education (Sony Pictures Classics), which is scheduled to open in New York and Los Angeles on October 9, 2009. The British movie by a Danish moviemaker was the winner of the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival in February.

Running time: 95 minutes.

What’s it all about? It’s 1961 in Twickenham, England, and 16-year-old straight-A student Jenny dreams of living in Paris but seems content with playing the cello, smoking cigarettes, learning to speak French and listening to Juliette Greco, while pleasing her parents by earnestly preparing to go to the next level at Oxford University. Until she meets the (older) man of her dreams ... she thinks. A Ravel concert followed by a fancy dinner turns out to be “the best night of my life,” she tells her mother, who later also admits, “Life’s a little brighter with him around.” Faced with making choices, that’s when Jenny really learns all about the hard facts of life.

Director: Lone Scherfig (Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, Italian for Beginners), who was on hand with new “It Girl” Carey Mulligan (Public Enemies, Pride & Prejudice, Doctor Who) on Friday night to introduce the first showing of the film, a free screening under a full moon at Elks Park. Scherfig, who was born in Denmark, asked viewers to “enter the time machine with us” and hoped “the film does this wonderful setting justice.”

Leading roles: Peter Sarsgaard (David); Carey Mulligan (Jenny). Mulligan, 24, who is participating in at least one afternoon seminar and a Sunday morning conversation with film critic Leonard Maltin while in Telluride, just hoped the opening night crowd “laughed in the right places.” Tabbed a “Rising Star” in Entertainment Weekly’s Fall Movie Preview, she is on her way to becoming a household name but was introduced in Telluride as “Casey, I mean, Carey Mulligan.”

Also appearing: Alfred Molina (Jack); Cara Seymour (Majorie); Olivia Williams (Miss Stubbs); Emma Thompson (Headmistress); Rosamund Pike (Helen).

Telluride take
• The Oscar talk for Mulligan may be a bit premature, although this film could do for her career what last year’s Happy-Go-Lucky did for Sally Hawkins, who went on to receive a Golden Globe award and also makes a brief appearance in An Education. Mulligan, who has drawn a wide range of comparisons (from Katie Holmes to Audrey Hepburn), does manage to handle playing a mature-for-her-age schoolgirl much better than Sarsgaard pulls off a British accent as Jenny’s thirtysomething “manfriend.”
• The supporting cast is stellar, led by Molina and Seymour as Jenny’s seemingly strict parents before falling for the charming David, who admits he attended the “university of life but didn’t get a good grade there.” Then there’s the striking Pike, who as Helen might play the dumbest sophisticated blonde ever, and is graced with the funniest lines in the film. After Jenny receives a “B” in a foreign language course, she is reassured by the older (but definitely not wiser) Helen, who says,“Fifty years from now, nobody will be speaking Latin. Not even Latin people.”
• Of course, the writing is as whip-smart as Jenny, with Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About A Boy) adapting the screenplay from an eight-page memoir by Lynn Barber.
• The swinging Sixties soundtrack includes numbers by Count Basie, Brenda Lee and (surprise) Mel Torme.
What you might not know
• Mulligan, right, has been spotted in New York City with Shia LaBeouf, the Transformers leading man, and they are doing more than acting together in Oliver Stone's Wall Street sequel, Money Never Sleeps, according to
• Mulligan and Pike appeared together in 2005’s Pride & Prejudice as sisters of lead character Elizabeth Bennet, played by Keira Knightley.

High on Telluride
One of the first sneak previews of the festival takes place Saturday afternoon in the Mountain Village, where director Jason Reitman will participate in a Q&A following the showing of Up In the Air, a dark comedy starring George Clooney as a Career Transition Counselor obsessed with frequent flyer miles. Reitman said he had such good luck when he brought Juno to Telluride two years ago that he requested (and received) the same time slots the rest of the weekend for his latest film that also stars Vera Farmiga.

Showbiz buzz
Actress and part-time Telluride resident Laura Linney was spotted Friday afternoon at the Steaming Bean coffee shop, then at the premiere of London River that stars Brenda Blethyn, who was also in attendance.
The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living. Oliver Wendell Holmes

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