An Education

An EducationI will admit that as a bored high school student I would sometimes sit in class staring out the window fantasizing about a handsome man pulling up in a fancy sports car and whisking me away to a more exciting life. So I can completely understand how 16-year old Jenny is seduced by an older, seemingly sophisticated man in An Education.

It’s 1961 England and young Jenny, played by Carey Mulligan, is feeling stuck in her adolescent world and dreams of her life to come while listening to French music in her suburban bedroom. She and her parents believe that for her, the path to adulthood leads directly through Oxford University and Jenny is well on her way, excelling at all of her studies, except for Latin. Then one rainy day while waiting for the bus she meets a man who will show her another path. David, played by Peter Sarsgaard, is 30-ish, urbane, and witty. In no time, he has charmed the schoolgirl and her parents and suddenly a whole new world is opened up for Jenny. David takes her to classical music concerts, art auctions, fancy restaurants and nightclubs. He even convinces Jenny’s parents to let her go away with him for a weekend in Oxford and then later to Paris. Jenny is intoxicated by the glamorous lifestyle David and his friends lead, so much so that she’s willing to overlook some of its more questionable aspects.

This is a whole other kind of education she’s getting with David and she loves it. Her school friends are thrilled by it; even her parents are impressed by it. The only ones not endorsing the relationship are her English teacher and the headmistress at her school. And yes, there is a slight creepiness factor in a 30-ish man wooing and bedding a high school girl. But there are no on-screen sex scenes – that would have been really creepy – because it’s not about sex for Jenny. It’s about adventure and excitement.

An Education is a coming of age story well told and finely acted. There is major buzz about Carey Mulligan and with good reason. She is brilliant as Jenny. Peter Sarsgaard is also wonderful, as is the supporting cast. I particularly enjoyed Emma Thompson as the headmistress and Rosamund Pike as Helen, the vacuous girlfriend of David’s friend. Overall, I’m giving it an A.

1 Comments

  1. Arty Chick, December 5, 2009:

    I’m conflicted about this one. I was there with it the whole time and I agree that the acting is top notch. But the creepiness factor, that 20 year age difference, she’s still in high school, you’re preying on a child thing was a lot to take. And I am not sure David was really so charming that she could look away when she found out what he did for a living, or that her parents could be so easily fooled. The feel-good ending helps. Carey Mulligan is lovely; I know there are Audrey Hepburn comparisons, though I think they are mainly because she is styled like Holly Golightly. I give this a measured recommendation.

Leave a comment