Saturday, 31 October 2009

REVIEW: An Education

Its hard to know what to make of this film, because while there's nothing inherently wrong with it, its just that it is kind of a run of the mill good film. If you'll excuse the oxymoron. There will be many films that are technically weaker then this, will no doubt receive lesser grades but stay in the mind longer, because they have something more distinctive about them, even if it comes in a less impeccable form. This is a film that will get tonnes of polite reviews and restrained praise, a lot of seven out of ten's, maybe pick up an Oscar nomination for screenplay or one of the actors then vanish completely from our collective consciousness. It is good. Containing plenty of high quality Brit acting, an interesting script from novelist Nick Hornby and a strong visual style that successfully evokes all things sixties, but its strengths are ones we've seen countless times before, and in exploring such familiar terrain it needed to be great in order to stand out from the crowd, rather then something you simply politely praise.

The plot follows Jenny (A fantastic and no doubt career making performance from Carey Mulligan) a straight arrowed, Straight A student who's sights are set on nothing but getting into Oxford. Then she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard) a smooth talking, richly cultured older man, who whisks her away into a world that belittles any aspirational fantasy she may have previously had. But dream worlds don't stay unblemished by reality for long. In a potentially tricky and alienating role, Mulligan manages to be funny, sympathetic and convey painful naivety when the scene calls for it. I wouldn't be surprised if she lived up to the hype of an Oscar nomination that's been surrounding this film's release. Sarsgaard wages a fiercely fought war against mastering the English accent, and for the most part he wins. Only a couple of moments clunk, but that apart he is good, if a little overshadowed. Olivia Williams gives a performance of the finest Britishness as Jenny's disapproving English teacher and Alfred Molina occasionally goes to far with his boorish parent, but nails his redeeming scene so well I give him a pass. Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike both do well by their respective characters, his a a deceptively cold con-man, hers a clueless upper-class ditz. But its Mulligan's film, and most credit will go to her and rightly so.

The film does nothing wrong except failing to do anything exceptionally right and thus will probably land toward the lower end of this year's Oscar bait.

Rating: 7/10

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