Friday, November 6, 2009

An Education

"An Education" is another one of those clean-cut films like "Julie & Julia" that large audiences wouldn't be ashamed of seeing themselves at. In a year of risky filmmaking such as "The Hurt Locker" (which, admittedly, there was a packed house with) and "Julia," people buy tickets in droves. Lone Scherfig's new movie is pretty good, but not one that everyone will talk about in years and not one I particularly found enjoyable beyond a certain point. It inspired some emotion within me (as opposed to "Julie & Julia"), but doesn't work really I guess due to the fact that it finds vapidity in all things yet tries to conclude showing that the heroine made the best choice. But this is based off of a memoir, so I guess the parameters cannot be tampered with.

Odd thing is, why exactly would we want to see such a film? It's not extraordinarily profound or anything, so why do we need this? I can answer on a small scale. It's interesting to see how the ideas of society have, over the course of nearly 50 years, made a sharp change. This romance would doubtfully be plausible now. In fact, it would be called predatory (yes, she does "come of age" in the film, but just barely). I am babbling on, but I really am fascinated by how this relationship works and with what ease. It inspires a thought.

The film, if you haven't already picked up, is about a "schoolgirl" (as she's called in every review and on wikipedia), in such a way that the word seems invented for her. Her name's Jenny and she's portrayed in a mix of smiles and tears by Carey Mulligan, the recipient of more than a little too much acclaim for such an okay performance. Jenny is the only child in a lower-class family consisting of Jack and Marjorie (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour), who are urging her onwards to Oxford, especially Jack. As she later remarks, not unlike Professor Larry Gopnik (a character in a film you should see instead of this one), she "hasn't done anything." And then David (Peter Sarsgaard) enters the picture, with his flashy car and boatloads of cash. He's the adult male who thinks he'll try to snare a young female like Jenny. Does he ever. She remarks after her first unofficial date, it was "the best night" of her whole 16 years, something that shows she needs to relax more and have more things to look forward to. Of course, that turns into much more cultured activity, from auctions to weekends in Paris and Oxford. Her parents seem strict, but David, although a Jew (real source of controversy, but it seems sort of artificial here), sways them with his silly humors and smooth talk (reminds me of another Jew by the name of Sy Ableman, who just so happens to be also in that same movie that you should see instead of this one). Look, this may sound dark, but it's lighter than it is (perhaps until the end, where David is revealed to be quite the pathetic type).

If you're looking to have a good time at the movies (especially if you enjoyed "Julie & Julia"), you might be swayed like Jenny in this film. You might as well see it anyways, just since everyone's jumping up and down with Oscar talk (Look at her dresses! His suits! And Nick Hornby! Branching out!). But if you're looking for a little risk at the cinema, go see "A Serious Man," an Oscar contender as it should be, one of the actually good films this year. They'll be fighting for you. "An Education" is sound, I guess, but I come away not feeling challenged (there are attempts to engage you) with a sigh. If you put a little gloss on (the sets are nice, I will admit) and you intertwine the controversial and the sentimental without going too far, you'll get an audience. That's what "An Education" proves, which is nice, but not testy, and thus not ingraining in my mind. B-

No comments: