An Education (UK; 95 min.)

directed by: Lone Scherfig
Carey Mulligan; Peter Sarsgaard; Alfred Molina; Cara Seymour; Dominic Cooper; Rosamund Pike; Olivia Williams; Emma Thompson
An Education

Michael says: "Danish director Lone Scherfig's latest film (after scoring big with Chlotrudis with ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS and WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF), is an adaptation of a British memoir about a young girl preparing for University at a private all-girls' school in the early 60s. With her strict, and rather uptight father urging her toward Oxford, the bright and beautiful Jenny is focused on her studies. Stranded in a torrential downpour with her cello one afternoon, she is offered a ride by David, a dashing man in a fancy sports car. The two are soon captivated with one another, despite his decade or two advantage. Jenny is whirled into another kind of life; a life of excitement and fun, frequenting swanky restaurants, orchestral recitals, and dizzying trips to France. Even Jenny's parents are swept away by David's charm and suddenly Jenny's future educational plans aren't so certain. Of course, there's a dark side to all this glamour, and it's revelation comes as something of a shock to Jenny, and the audience. By the end, Jenny learns a valuable lesson, the audience is pleased, and a well-made film concludes.

"The cast is outstanding, with young Carey Mulligan bringing Jenny to believable life. Peter Sarsgaard really turns on the charm as the dubious David. Alfred Molina is funny and moving as Jenny's dad. Cara Seymour, Olivia Williams, Sally Hawkins and the magnificent Emma Thompson bring things to life in important supporting roles. Scherfig direct with an assured hand as well, using giddy close-ups to convey emotion, and truly creating the vibrant atmosphere of a wealthy nightlife to seduce Jenny away from the bland seriousness of studies. It's a noticeably effective way to breathe true life into the film.

"If there is any downside, it's in the screenplay, and this was surprising to me given that the original memoir, written by Lynn Barber, was adapted for the screen by the popular author Nick Hornby. There are a few fleeting moments where things just don't work, and you are popped right out of the screen, and this is largely due to missteps in the screenplay. That said, the parts that are done well clearly outnumber the few flaws, which means AN EDUCATION deserves 4 cats"

Bruce says: "AN EDUCATION is based on a memoir written by Lynn Barber, a noted British journalist.  Working from someone else’s material for the first time, Nick Hornby has written a first-rate script that is funny, wise and fast-moving.  Lone Scherfig (ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS, WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF and JUST LIKE HOME) seems to be alternating her films in Danish and English, equally at home in both languages, although her English language films have more appeal.  Sherfig presents AN EDUCATION as though it were a stage play, only allowing the camera to enhance the moment rather than to compete with the dialogue for a starring role.  From the smart and stylish opening credits it is obvious that the audience is in for a good ride.  The film is set in Twickenham, a suburb southwest of London, in 1961, which – in Hornby’s words - was a time in history when England was on the edge of change.   England in 1961 was still more like 1945 than 1963 when the Beatles and Rolling Stones would change the course of British history.   In ways, this coming of age story of a sixteen year old named Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a metaphor for England herself.

"Jenny is doing her A-levels hoping to read English at Oxford.  She is a pet project of her teacher (Olivia Williams).  Her middle class parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) are baffled by her interest in classical music and everything French.  On rainy night a stranger offers Jenny a ride home as she waits for the bus in the rain with her cello.  Soon a romance develops.   His name is David.   He is sophisticated and a real charmer.  Not only is Jenny dazzled but her parents fall for David as well.   David takes her into London for a Ravel concert.  She is fascinated by David’s friends Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Helen (Rosamund Pike) with whom they go to art auctions and jazz clubs.  Soon they are traveling together on weekends.  Stories of Jenny’s new found sophistication travels quickly around the school.  The headmistress (Emma Thompson) is not amused and threatens Jenny, who refuses to be intimidated.  Jenny is certain she has found a path to a better life. 

"Jenny is not a victim in the classic sense and that is what makes her story so compelling.  Yes, Jenny is impressionable but she is also aware of the great risks she is taking.  On the other hand, she is ill equipped to handle her emotions which are sorrily put to a severe test When a crisis develops.   All the players – Jenny, her parents, David, Danny and Helene  -  must share responsibility - as they have lied or covered up ugly truths.   

"Cary Mulligan is wonderful as Jenny.  The films believability, however, lies in the hands of Peter Sarsgaard, who delivers his best performance since SHATTERED GLASS.   Alfred Molina, Cara Seymour, Dominic Cooper, and Rosamund Pike are all excellent in the supporting roles.  4 1/2 cats

(AN EDUCATION screened at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival."

Thom says: "Danish director Scherfig has made quite a name for herself over the last few years. Who hasn’t seen at least one of her successes: ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS, WILBUR WANTS TO KILL HIMSELF, or JUST LIKE HOME (TIFF 2007). This coming-of-age film about a desperately intelligent girl who falls for a rogue & his way-of-life is beautifully put together with some outstanding performances (Cara Seymour as the girl’s (Carey Mulligan & Rosamund Pike as a weary hanger on of Sarsgaard’s set are both quite excellent). 3 1/2 cats"

Lisa says: "I saw AN EDUCATION this weekend and I must admit my hopes were high. Even though it focuses on the years just before swinging London, flashbacks of my own adolescent longing, watching films like To Sir with Love, Darling, most anything with Julie Christie or Kim Novak, made me feel hopeful that Carey Mulligan (Jenny in An Education) would evoke a similar feeling. And with Nick Hornsby¹s musical nostalgia pen! This could work.

Alas, the film is utterly sweet and predictable. Mulligan is eminently watchable and intelligent in the role of Jenny but nothing unfamiliar is unearthed. Alfred Molina is WONDERFUL as her father, Jack. And it was great to see Olivia Williams doing another teacher stint (RUSHMORE). In fact, the cast is picture perfect, except for Peter Saarguard, who seems to be holding back a bit.

"You walk away with three major thoughts:

  • I need this soundtrack.
  • We¹ve come a long way, baby.
  • Was the Jewish stereotype necessary?
Diane says: "We sure have a range of cats on this one. I'm giving it 3. Good points: lead Mulligan, the portrait cinematography, and costume design. Major bad point: the screenplay.  These characters could have been explored in much more depth to give them realism. E.g., why the baby talk on David's part? and where did a protected seventeen-year-old get the strength to decide the terms of her first sexual encounter? I was expecting a big denouement and was disappointed. All of a sudden the film went sappy. The tone veered from romantic comedy to suspense to Hallmark Theater."
Jo says: "I saw AN EDUCATION and was a bit disappointed. At first it seemed believable and then it didn't. I don't know how much I should say since I don't want to give anything away. I thought the acting was great and the story interesting but it went downhill. It was great to see Alfred Molina again in a movie i wanted to see. I guess i give it 3 cats"
Chris says: "In a London suburb in 1962, Jenny, (Carey Mulligan) a teenager preparing to apply to Oxford University meets and falls in love with a worldly, seductive man (Peter Sarsgaard) more than twice her age. With director Lone Scherfig (ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS), an adapted screenplay from novelist Nick Hornby (HIGH FIDELITY) and an excellent cast including Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Olivia Williams and a tart cameo from Emma Thompson, it’s no surprise that this film received a glowing reception at Sundance earlier this year. Although a little clichéd at times (especially when it cues the Serious Music) and verging-on-implausible at others (Jenny’s parents are wildly inconsistent in their behavior), this is still an enjoyable, bittersweet coming of age story and a likely indie hit to boot. Most exciting is how it recreates and examines a particular place and time—Britain just before the Beatles ushered in the swinging Sixties. Expect Mulligan’s whip-smart Jenny to be this year’s buzzed-about breakthrough performance. 4 cats"
Toni says: "I think cinematography and acting was great on all parts (even Sally Hawkins’ few minutes) but there was something that did not quite fit where I did not believe that while Peter Saarsgard played a charmer that he could so easily convince her parents to do anything he wanted and why he would be so sloppy to keep any info around showing his true colors.  I will have to say that I was a bit disappointed considering my very high hopes for this one.  I do love this time period visually and must say I was certainly felt much more of an emotional impact from A SINGLE MAN. I agree on this cat rating and went from originally 4 cats to 3 cats based on the very ending although when the truth comes out was probably the best most intense part of the film."