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Never Let Your Schooling Interfere With Your Education
An Education (DVD)
Member Name: littlepenguin
An Education (DVD)
Date: 12/03/10, updated on 14/03/10 (117 review reads)
Advantages: A charming story with many brilliant qualities.
Disadvantages: Could have been a more complex, surprising plot.
'An Education' has received countless nominations for everything from 'Best Screenplay' at the British Independent Film Awards through to 'Best Direction' at this year's BAFTAs, with the relatively unknown Carey Mulligan famously winning 'Best Actress' at the BAFTAs.
With such critical acclaim linked to this film and plenty of quality movie clips shown at BAFTAs, I was immediately enthralled. Would 'An Education' live up to its expectations or would it be one huge disappointment?
Set in 1960s London, sixteen-year-old schoolgirl, Jenny Meller, is discontented with her life. With an excellent talent for English, she is encouraged to go to Oxford, but throughout the film doubts whether this will be the best existence for her.
Jenny meets older man, David, who shows her the world from a far more frivolous perspective, indulging her passions for the French, music and, of course, French music!
All of a sudden, Jenny is taken by this crazy whirlwind of romance and surprisingly enough, is no longer keen to go back to her sensible, traditional existence.
The film has a surprising twist and things don't turn out as you might expect, but I will leave you to discover this for yourself.
Personally, I believe the best performance was given by Alfred Molina who plays Jack, Jenny's Father. Jack is a man of great principles, who wants the best for his only daughter, but doesn't always show his support in the right way. Although the character is a tough, authority figure, Molina has interpreted him in a very human way in which one can relate to him, rather than feel he is a villain. A particularly touching moment is when he delivers an emotional apology to Jenny (well, a shut bedroom door with her on the other side of it) carrying a cup of tea and three custard creams! The writing here is brilliant and very well delivered by Alfred Molina. His experience of working almost consistently for the last 30 years have really paid off in this film.
Kara Seymour, an actress whom I was previously unfamiliar with, plays the girl's mother, Marjorie. She supports both Carey Mulligan and Alfred Molina well, but I don't feel as though her performance was anything particularly special.
The male lead, David, is depicted by Peter Saarsgard. In reality he is only 14 years older than his leading lady, but in this move the gap looks slightly larger, with Mulligan playing a girl 8 years her junior. I was shocked to learn he is in fact from America, as his English accent was perfectly faultless. I felt his acting was pretty good, but he was perhaps slightly too charming. Still, I suppose this explains why the young Jenny falls so easily for his sophisticated character.
Carey Mulligan was absolutely perfect for this role, with the life experience to understand and comprehensively portray Jenny, but the youthful looks and slender body to be believably convincing as a sixteen-year-old school girl. I thought the character was interesting and her development throughout the film was engaging enough for me to enjoy following this young girl's journey.
I loved Carey in the Doctor Who episode 'Blink' and fans of hers can look forward to 'Brighton Rock' and there are rumours about her playing Eliza in a new film of 'My Fair Lady.' I can't help but wonder if this is solely based on the likeness to Audrey Hepburn (who played Eliza in the 1964 version) that Mulligan displays in 'An Education.'
Emma Thompson was of course good at the role of headmistress, but I'm not sure it was as "right" for her as the roles in 'Love Actually' and 'Nanny McPhee.'
Dominic Cooper from 'Mamma Mia!' and 'The History Boys' plays David's dodgy mate, Danny. At first I felt this character was a little basic and bland, but there are moments of genius, where you can tell exactly what he means through his expressions alone.
His partner, Helen, is played by the beautiful Rosamund Pike from 'Die Another Day' and 'Pride and Prejudice.' In fact, we recently met her after a performance of Ibsen's 'Hedda Gabler' in Bath. You will not believe how long this girl takes to come out of the theatre after a show! But at least she was polite and friendly.
Anyway, back on subject! Her character is pretty ditzy, but in a more original and quite charming manner then most "ditzy blondes." Her character I think is there to show the typical socialite - living the high life courtesy of her boyfriend's dodgy dealings. She clearly isn't interested in education and is the sort of person Jenny could potentially become. But is this a good thing?
====My Views on 'An Education'====
This film has a very authentic British feel to it, right from the beginning when we see a beautifully shot scene in the good old rain, which has such an alluring greyness to it! This also successfully helps portray the way Jenny is feeling about her slightly mundane life.
As the film progresses there are more vibrant colours and textures, which I feel give a fun, youthful effect. They complement the story and keep the audience captivated.
The music too is often energetic and colourful, with a reel rich texture to it. I think the audience are completely with Jenny on her journey to a new environment, rather than disapproving of her behaviour and willing her to go back to school.
I love the music on the credits, but most striking was the cabaret singer in the background, quite early in in the film. She just feels so right; her voice is gorgeous and her outfit just so perfect for the era.
The scenes are all rather well shot and as I went into detail with above, the film is acted beautifully. One of my favourite moments is when David, Jenny, Helen and Danny go to watch the orchestra. The camera gently pans across their four faces. David and Jenny are fully enchanted, taken away by the music, where as Helen looks like she wants to be sick! Perhaps slightly too dull for someone who craves constant excitement.
I'm also keen on the montage shot in France, a very nice representation of the sophisticate adult relationship Jenny is now enjoying, far away from her previous life full of boundaries, focus and education. One moment from this, where David and Jenny are lying together is used as the cover of the DVD. I feel it is a classic image - well chosen and attractive.
Carey Mulligan's character has some beautiful dresses, which definitely celebrate Jenny's free spirit, a girl most certainly on the brink of adulthood. One of my favourite moments is her impassioned speech to the headmistress, where she describes on our country having "no life in it, no colour, no fun."
'An Education' is quite a subtle and beautiful film, but I fell that if anything it lacks a little bit of plot. Perhaps there should be a few more surprises that arise. Still, the pace as it is works for me.
I watched the deleted scenes and the ten-minute featurette which are included with the DVD. I was particularly surprised that they decided not to include one scene, where David reveals some things about himself, which later prove to be untrue. I found this scene would have added to the betrayal we as an audience feel.
Also, there is an alternative ending which I quite liked, but the ending they used was shorter and worked just as well. All in all, I think theses deleted scenes are of much better quality than any I've seen before and are quite interesting to watch. The featurette is also reasonably interesting and not too time consuming.
The main theme in this film is life verses education. Other notable themes include coming of age, romance, culture, family values, seduction (of not only Jenny, but her parents too) and age differences in relationships.
As you can probably tell, I believe this is a film you will appreciate not only for the charming story, but the acting, cinematography, costume and music. I hope this film survives to be a classic as I believe it is wholly deserved.
I bought my copy for £10.95 from Amazon, probably more than I would pay for most films, but definitely worth it. Rated a 12 certificate, I recommend everyone watch 'An Education.' It is immensely enjoyable.
Summary: A beautiful film in every way.