Sometimes an education isn't by the book. This is the tagline of "An Education." Set in England in the 1960s, where women were less wary, it revolves around the life of a teenage girl, Jenny. A bright inquisitive girl on her way out of school, inclined to art- literature, music, painting and french films. She belongs to a conservative, "bourgeois" family that is keen on her getting into Oxford.
Her life is routine. She studies, plays the cello and gets bored, oblivious of the fact that she's actually feeling bored. Only after you've done something exciting do you feel that by missing it, you are bored.
In walks David, a middle aged man who gives her a lift on a rainy day and then sends her flowers wishing her luck arousing suspicion. Peter Sarsgaard is suitably slick and edges towards creepy as the middle-aged smooth talker who seduces her by fulfilling her enthusiasm for conversation, cigarettes, literature, French films, jazz, expensive restaurants -- and yes, a connection to a man who understands her, unlike those "teddy boys" who wobble about on their bicycles while trying to get her attention. Once he's finished charming Jenny's parents he slowly begins working his magic on her with the audience feeling its side effects. Just his ornate presence on screen will make you side with him. You'll think "Yeah, he's an older guy. So what? He's still a nice guy."
Carey mulligan knows this girl, Jenny. She probably was Jenny at some point in her life. You get to see Jenny right there on screen. I don't know what I can appreciate of it because it might not actually be acting. Imagine being asked to get on screen and play yourself, would you deserve credit? Had I read the screenplay, the woman whom I would've pictured in mind would've been a lot like Mulligan. Teachers at school warn her that this Mr.Rochester figure is a suave sexual predator ready to pounce on her, but she takes that chance. By making a subtle reference to the influential novel "Jane Eyre" it is hinted that Jenny is fascinated by the idea of dating an older man.
Alfred Molina deserves all the acclaim that he's been getting for his portrayal of Jack, Jenny's father, a Bigot whose social life is limited to Jenny and her mother. He goes out of his way to be cordial to a friendly stranger and ends up giving his daughter's hand to him in marriage. All the trust that he never dared to put in people all his life, he invests in David.
The main thing about the performances is that this cast is a damn good team. Unlike Inglourious basterds, Up in the Air and Precious where we saw the actors slyly intervening for the spotlight, this is a mutual effort. The best part of An Education is its acting synergism. Lone Sherfig probably chose people who loved their roles more than the script. Going by the buzz, a Best Picture and Best Actress nomination is guaranteed, but I can't be sure if it will or should win. One award I really think it deserves more than any other film of the year is the Screen Actors Guild award for an outstanding performance by a cast, an award that will be added by The Academy in the future.
Lone Sherfig has given the film just the right touches. Where this movie is leading you to, isn't the point at all. It is the journey. There might be many paths you could take to get to the destination but Lone Sherfig pushes you in the direction she wants you to and yet you feel at ease. This isn't a compelling film. When I say that, I don't mean it as a flaw. She takes the age-old story of the "young girl, married man leads to disaster" and revitalizes it. The screenplay is well written by Nick Hornby with witty, sarcastic and contemptuous dialogues- a trademark of the brits. The point of the film isn't to judge how naive girls were but how people get sucked into believing that a dream can transform into reality.
A wonderful coming of age film that requires multiple watches to get its entirety, "An Education" is one of the years very best picking up its spot right at the top beside "Up in the Air" and "District 9."