For this month’s next entry for Genre Grandeur February – Coming of Age movie’s, here’s a review of An Education (2009) by Anna of Film Grimoire
Thanks again to Justine of Justine’s movie blog for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s Genre, chosen by this morning’s reviewer Anna of Film Grimoire will be Latin Director movies. To participate, send me your review to firstname.lastname@example.org by 25th Mar. Thanks to Anna for a great and diverse choice.
Let’s see what Anna thought of this movie:
Genre Grandeur: An Education (2009)
Based on the memoir of the same name by Lynn Barber, An Education (2009, dir. Lone Scherfig) tells the story of Jenny Mellor (Carey Mulligan), a young schoolgirl who is becoming bored with her suburban British lifestyle. By chance one day, she meets David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard), a charming older gentleman who takes an interest in her. Over time, Jenny becomes caught up in the glamorous lifestyle of David’s fabulous friends and glorious holidays, but do these benefits come at a cost?
An Education is a coming of age film in every sense of the term, as a young woman blossoms before your very eyes, and learns that the world, and her own future, does not necessarily follow the rules of her own idealism. The story develops in a believable and steady manner; and with a screenplay written by Nick Hornby, how could it not be amazing? The dialogue is peppered with existential angsty teenage insights and musings upon the roles of women in 60s Britain, which in combination with one another are more insightful than you might think. The writing of the film is stellar in general.
Carey Mulligan is absolutely radiant as young Jenny Mellor, and does seem to grow up throughout the course of the film – initially presented as innocent, wide-eyed and destined to read English at Oxford University, then slowly becoming more word-weary and cynical. Jenny’s physical and psychological transformation is so subtle over time that she seems to become a totally different person by the end without the viewer even noticing. This is an absolute credit to Mulligan. She was still a relative newcomer when this film was released, and garnered a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her work. However that accolade was given to Sandra Bullock for her performance in The Blind Side (2009) instead.
Further praise must be given to Peter Sarsgaard, whose slimey portrayal of con man David Goldman is just as impressive as Mulligan’s Jenny, but for different reasons. David is so uncomfortable to watch on screen, and it’s difficult to pinpoint why. He’s so charming and wins over everyone around him, but there’s still an untrustworthy feeling to his performance that reflects his role in the film. It can be so difficult to portray a role like this without resorting to being a shifty-eyed cartoon villain, and any lesser actor may have done just that. It has to be said that Sarsgaard’s performance has the right amount of subtlety to make viewers both believe David and want his life with Jenny to be perfect, but to also hold reservations about him. Performances by Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour as Jenny’s parents must also be commended, as they often serve the purpose of comic relief, and do so exceptionally well. A very funny and almost sad performance by Rosamund Pike is another highlight.
Visually, An Education is beautiful, with what seems to be a vintage-style Instagram filter laid over each shot. The world of the 60s and the romantic longings of a young girl stuck in the white bread suburbs of Britain during that time is crafted in such a congruent manner through colours and music. Jenny’s home and school life is illustrated in drab, dark, uniform colours – whilst her life with David is brightly coloured and sparkling, with jaunty jazz and classy French tunes. One of my favourite scenes is where David and Jenny go to Paris, and their adventures together through the streets and shops is shown in a French New Wave style with handheld camera and almost theatrical acting by Mulligan and Sarsgaard. It’s clever little touches like this, when you consider Jenny’s Francophile nature, which will make you fall in love with this film.
Above all, An Education tells a coming of age story with conviction. It is a congruent and passionate period drama with a lead actress who delights and surprises throughout the entire film. Visually it’s a stunner, and the addition of generally perfect screenwriting by Nick Hornby counterbalances the beauty on screen. Although the latter third of the film tends to be weaker than the rest, overall this film is very impressive. You can’t go past a film like this, that will not only show you some gorgeous cinematography and impressive performances, but also teach you some life lessons as well.