By Kim Voynar

An Education Directed by Lone Scherfig

An Education, Lone Scherfig’s much-anticipated film about Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a British schoolgirl in the 1960s who gets swept off her feet by an older man (Peter Saarsgard) is beautifully directed, smart and engaging — and one of the best films at Sundance thus far.

Nick Hornby (author of the novels About a Boy andHigh Fidelity) has penned a thoughtful, compelling script, and the direction is great as well, but more than anything, what makes this film stand out is a remarkable performance by Mulligan as the wide-eyed innocent who gets caught up in the whirlwind of glamour and culture wrought by David, the older man who woos her with music, art, fine dining, and the promise of a life more exciting than the humdrum life of a schoolgirl.

This is not so much a coming-of-age tale of the sexual awakening of a young girl as it is about her cultural and intellectual awakening and ultimate disillusionment, and Scherfig could not have cast the lead role better. There’s considerable buzz swirling around Mulligan here at Sundance on the strength of strong performances in both this film and The Greatest, and for once, the chatter is well-deserved and not just Sundance hype.

Mulligan perfectly evokes the contradictory aspects of Jenny’s naivete and her desire to be sophisticated and cultured; she’s too smart for the life of teacher or civil servant the adults in her life have planned for her, and her relationship with David exposes her to another way of living — a life filled with art, theater, travel and fun that, for a while, seems a more promising path than the one she’d envisioned herself taking. But she’s a book-smart girl who’s lived a sheltered life, and she lacks the maturity and life experience to see through David’s charming facade to the reasons why a man like him might pursue a young girl without the maturity and knowledge to judge who he really is. In truth, though, we can’t blame it solely on her youth, as her parents are equally blinded by David’s cultured good looks and finely tuned spin, and are perfectly willing to see her cast aside an education at Oxford for a life married to such a charming and wealthy man, even if she is barely 17.

Forget any comparisons to Towelhead. Though it’s true enough that both films deal with older men pursuing much younger girls, the vibe of An Education isn’t at all cringe-inducing, and it should avoid most of the hurdles that film faced in convincing audiences to look past its premise. This is an excellent film, accessible enough that it could play well beyond the arthouse ghetto and even be an awards contender, given the right distributor that knows how to market this type of fare.

-by Kim Voynar

..Toronto Film Festival 2009
..MCN Weekend

Release date: October 9, 2009

Starring: Peter Saarsgard, Carey Mulligan,
Emma Thompson, Dominic Cooper,
Alfred Molina, Sally Hawkins

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon