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Nov 27th
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film_AnEducation1Schoolgirl falls for older man in impeccable, but uneven 'An Education'

Just because it's an old story doesn't mean everybody's heard it.  As long as there are dewy-eyed young women and dashing older men to pursue them, stories like An Education will continue to play out. Drenched in early '60s atmosphere, and impeccably produced in every detail, Lone Scherfig's adaptation of the Lynn Barber memoir tells a familiar story from the fresh and compelling viewpoint of a very bright, very young woman for whom it is all happening for the first time. The plot may not be entirely credible onscreen, but the emotions involved are explored with honesty, insight, and humor.

Scripted by Nick Hornby, the film revolves around Jenny, a 16-year-old English schoolgirl on the cusp of womanhood studying for her final exams in hopes of getting into Oxford. It's a showcase role for newcomer Carey Mulligan, who plays Jenny with a disarming mix of pert, giggling girlishness, attempted sophistication, and tart self-awareness. It's 1961, and Jenny craves la vie boheme; she sneaks ciggies with her girlfriends out on the playground, listens to Jacques Brel records, and scatters French remarks into her conversation.

At the moment, however, she's stuck in suburban Twickenham with her sympathetic Mum (Cara Seymour), and irascible Dad (Alfred Molina), who never stops drilling her in the importance of an Oxford education. And while she struggles with Latin, Jenny is an excellent student in every other subject, a particular credit to her austere-seeming English teacher, Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams). Jenny even plays cello in the school youth orchestra because her dad insists that Oxford favors students who cultivate a hobby.

It's because she's stranded out in the rain with her cello one day that Jenny accepts a ride home with David (Peter Sarsgaard), a gentlemanly stranger in his 30s driving a sleek maroon Bristol roadster. Soon, he's sending her flowers, appearing outside her neighborhood chip shop, and inviting her to a Ravel concert in the city. Jenny is sure her folks will never allow it, but David persuades them with his responsible demeanor and an innocent lie. Before long, Jenny is cutting classes to hang out with David, his arty friend Danny (Dominic Cooper), and Danny's glamorous girlfriend, Helen (Rosamund Pike).

Jenny is thrilled to know people who talk about art and music and cinema, although surprised that the decorative Helen doesn't care about such things. (Helen thinks university makes girls "spotty and ugly.") But sweet-natured Helen lends Jenny sheath dresses and beehives her hair for their excursions out—which soon include weekend trips to Oxford, and even Paris. As David ingratiates himself with Jenny's parents with more audacious lies, the dazzled Jenny embraces this exciting new life, to the scandalized delight of her girlfriends, and the despair of Miss Stubbs and the school's frosty headmistress (the great Emma Thompson) on the eve of finals.

But the film stumbles over the ease with which David sidles into Jenny's parents' good graces. Sarsgaard is not a naturally irresistible charmer; as David, his compliments are of the oily, Eddie Haskell variety, and his emotional palette seems studied and insincere from the get-go. Yes, Jenny's folks are provincial, but it's impossible to buy that either her wise mother or blustery father would allow their underage daughter to go off overnight with this much older guy, just because he butters them up. What exactly do they think his intentions are?

A later, at least partial explanation of her father's complex motivations redeems this plot lapse somewhat, and provides the drama with a poignant father-daughter encounter. What Jenny expects from David remains a bit problematic. Longing for sophistication, she's impressed when David respects her decision to postpone sex until she's ready (in a fine scene, in which she instructs him not to talk baby-talk, and act like a grown-up). But quelling her own misgivings over David's shadier antics feels more like a plot device than an honest response. Nevertheless, Mulligan's pitch-perfect rendering of both eager youth and rueful wisdom— along with an excellent supporting cast—keeps the film on point. AN EDUCATION ★★1/2 (out of four)

With Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, and Olivia Williams. Written by Nick Hornby. From the memoir by Lynn Barber. Directed by Lone Scherfig. A Sony Classics release. Rated PG-13. 95 minutes.

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Giving Thanks: The Thought-Form of Solution

We are in the time and under the influence of Sagittarius, sign of the wanderer, good food, good music, and the joy (Jupiter as ruler) that occurs from giving to others while simultaneously giving thanks from our hearts. Having the Thanksgiving holiday during the month of Sag is not a mistake. No other sign understands joy (an aspect of the Soul) as Sag (except Pisces when not in despair). “Sag is a beam of directed and focused light. The beam reveals a greater light ahead, illuminating the Way to the center of the Light,” emitting the Ray of Joyfulness. Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude; in the form of prayers, thoughts, feelings, wishes, hopes and greetings. Gratitude is something we still need to learn. Gratitude creates goodwill. Together, gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution” for humanity and our world’s problems. Gratitude and goodwill are the prerequisites for the reappearance of the Christ, the Aquarian World Teacher. In Ancient Wisdom texts it is written, “being grateful is the hallmark of one who is enlightened.” Gratitude comes from the Soul—the characteristics of which are love and wisdom (Ray 2). Gratitude is scientifically and occultly (mental, not emotional) a releasing agent. Gratitude liberates us and everything around us. Also a service to others, gratitude is deeply scientific in nature, releasing us from the past and laying open our future path leading to the new culture and civilization, the new laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarian, the Age of Friendship and Equality. The Hierarchy lays much emphasis upon gratitude. Let us be grateful this year and this season together. And so now the days of light illuminating the darkness begin (December’s festivals and feast days). Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am grateful for all of you, my readers.

 

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