I’m Educated

October 31, 2009

Last night I went to An Education at QFT, and the showing was surprisingly full… of people not my age. I really wasn’t expecting that, but then I suppose I should just assume that people older than I am are more willing to go to an art-house cinema than people still in school.

The plot of An Education concerns a school girl, Jenny, played by Carrie Mulligan, embarking on a relationship with an older man, played by Peter Sarsgaard. Her father, played by Alfred Molina, has been pushing her to complete her studies and go to Oxford. You get the feeling he’s been pushing this vision of a future on the girl since she was in utero, and only a very determined performance on Molina’s part prevents the character from being totally overbearing and one-dimensional. Even a man so obsessed on his vision of his daughter’s future is swayed by Sarsgaard’s smooth operator.

He’s a shadowy guy, specializing in “liberating” art pieces to sell on for profit. (100% profit, not coincidentally… but I digress) Red flags go off for viewers almost immediately when he lies to cover for a trip he wants to take with Jenny, but both she and her parents, all of them stuck in suburban 1960’s England, are enthralled by the much more exciting life promised by David. It makes sense that a person stuck in her room studying all the time, who has even her hobbies chosen for how they’ll look on an Oxford application, would be drawn to this; but surely her parents know better, right? Maybe it’s just the years in soul-killing suburbs, but neither father nor mother put up much of a fight with David.

In fact, it seems that the only people who are willing to encourage Jenny to stay in school and not give up her studies and her dream of an education are the people at her school. Obviously, they aren’t exactly speaking from a position of real strength, and their justifications didn’t even convince me, much less Jenny. (Edit: It occurs to me after originally posting this that some of my resistance toward the justifications offered by the teachers may have as much to do with my skepticism that the education I’m getting is going to do me any good as it does with their actual arguments being weak. Take it with a grain of salt.)

Inevitably, it all comes crashing down on her head, and here is where the film infuriated me. Up until the last fifteen minutes the movie had assumed I was smart; assumed I could pick up on David’s lies when Jenny and the parents didn’t; assumed I could draw moral conclusions from the events on screen, even if the participants weren’t quite as quick on the uptake, and then it threw it all away for a pat, “Very Special Episode” ending telling us all what to think of this woman’s experience. Moments like this, when films lack the guts to live up to their convictions, drive me up the wall.

Special notice has to go to the clothing department in this movie, and David and his associate Danny, played by Dominic Cooper, look razor sharp in their suits. I lost count the amount of times I experienced shoe-lust. Furthermore, Rosamund Pike has got to get recognition for playing a completely vacuous woman– Danny’s girlfriend, Helen– so convincingly.

So there you go; it’s out in the States. If it’s near you, go see it, if not netflix it or something.


2 Responses to “I’m Educated”

  1. Em K said

    shoe-lust… hehe.

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