Welcome back to our Oscar review series! This week is “An Education”. This film tells the story of 16 year old Jenny, a school girl in 1960’s England. Jenny is the brightest in her class, and her parents – especially her father – are pushing her to get the grades required to attend Oxford. Her life is just, as she herself confesses, “boring”. Then one day she meets David, a wealthy and charming man twice her age who takes an interest in her. She can’t help but be taken in by the new experiences and excitement his company offers. He charms her parents into letting him take her out with him and his friends, to auctions, to greyhound races, and even to Paris. Meanwhile, Jenny’s education begins to suffer from her newfound distraction. She and David begin a romantic relationship, but everything begins to unravel when Jenny finds out where he and his friends earn their money, and other secrets they’ve been hiding.
That probably all sounds very typical right? Rather formulaic and predictable. Well to be honest, it was. I was sort of surprised that it got nominated to be honest. The story isn’t as original as I thought it would be. But, the performances are fortunately quite good. Jenny is played by Carrie Mulligan, a little known actress but a good one, who looks remarkably like Audrey Hepburn. She plays both Jenny’s eagerness and hesitation in her relationship with David and his friends very well; it’s nice because Jenny has a decent amount of common sense that she doesn’t forget about like the character would in a similar movie with the same basic storyline. Mulligan got the nomination for Best Actress for this role; but I’m not sure it is deserved. It didn’t seem incredible to me, it didn’t blow me away. But at the same time, I couldn’t name any one thing I didn’t like about her.
David is played by Peter Sarsgaard, whose character could have been extremely creepy (as opposed to moderately creepy) to watch if he didn’t handle it so smoothly. Which is of course what makes his character so likeable to Jenny and her parents. Sarsgaard gives David just the right amount of awkwardness mixed with charm to win over everybody except the viewer, who knows better than to trust him. But his sincerity about his feelings for Jenny almost makes you want to.
This film was also beautifully shot. The scenes that take place in Paris are breathtaking, making you wish you were there with them. Also, the sets and props, such as the cars, make the film very comfortable in its time period; I literally had to remind myself that England probably doesn’t still look like it did in the film. The characters also seem very comfortable in the settings and, very importantly, their accents. There are several main actors in the film, including Peter Sarsgaard, who are not British, but they mastered the accent enough to make me have to check where they were from.
Overall, I feel like there’s just not much to say about this movie. It was good. It wasn’t great. It was predictable, but it had good performances. Should you see it? You could do without. There are several other must-sees on this Oscar list that should take immediate precedence. Only 15 days left everybody!
My Londonderry NH net rating, 2 1/2 seeds
Images An Education a Sony Pictures Classics (c) courtesy
Visit the An Education website for trailers and promotions.