Movie Review: An Education (Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina)2009

Posted: November 21, 2012 in Drama


A young British schoolgirl named Jenny (Mulligan) gets picked up in the rain by an older man named David.  (Sarsgaard) Jenny’s father Jack (Molina) dreams of Jenny going to Oxford, but Jenny’s bored with her life of seemingly never-ending study.   David sweeps Jenny off her feet, and introduces her to a life filled with classical concerts  art auctions and  real estate speculation.  Jenny learns something not too flattering about David’s business life, but lets it slide because she loves him. Or is it that she loves the lifestyle that David has introduced her to? As for her strict father, David charms Jack into thinking that he knows famous people.  David fakes an autograph from CS Lewis, just to spend a weekend with Jenny.  The good times keep coming for Jenny, she goes to Paris with David, her grades are slipping and her father seems not to care.  He seems to be satisfied to allow her to marry well to David.  Jenny’s headmistress (Emma Thompson) implores Jenny to stay in school and do the hard thing, and not the exciting thing.  Then David proposes, but Jenny finds out something heartbreaking about David.  Knowing what she knows, is a future with David possible?

I liked this movie, for the simple reason that Carey Mulligan gives a transcendent performance.  She is smart, tough funny, yet vulnerable.  More than anything, her Jenny character doesn’t want to fall into a recurring pattern of school, life, work and death.  She’s only 16, she sees the straight and narrow path laid out for her life, but she wants to rebel from the tedious life, which she sees played out in the lives of her teachers for example. Jenny doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes of an earlier generation.  She doesn’t want to study hard, only to become a high school teacher, it doesn’t seem worth it.  Molina is interesting too, he wants a good education for his daughter Jenny, but he becomes as star struck with David as Jenny does, and falls for David’s charm, and instead of being supportive of his daughter seems to be forcing Jenny into a decision she doesn’t want to make.  The big secret that is revealed at the end is somewhat pedestrian, but Mulligan and Molina make the trip fun.  Sarsgaard is less convincing and a little slimy, are we really to believe that he can just cruise for a 16 year old girl and build a relationship with her with not so much as a question from her mother or father.  Sarsgaaed is better than usual, but he drops his British accent a few times, and that bothers me.

An Education.  Learning life’s lessons, the hard way.



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