Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 01st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Class Action

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.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

The Meaning of ‘LIFE’

With a new documentary film about his work, and huge exhibits on both coasts, acclaimed Santa Cruz nature photographer Frans Lanting is having a landmark year. But his crusade for conservation doesn’t leave much time for looking back

 

Seasons of Opportunity

Everything in our world has a specific time (a season) in which to accomplish a specific work—a “season” that begins (opportunity) and ends (time’s up). I can feel the season is changing. The leaves turning colors, the air cooler, sunbeams casting shadows in different places. It feels like a seasonal change has begun in the northern hemisphere. Christmas is in four months, and 2015 is swiftly speeding by. Soon it will be autumn and time for the many Festivals of Light. Each season offers new opportunities. Then the season ends and new seasons take its place. Humanity, too, is given “seasons” of opportunity. We are in one of those opportunities now, to bring something new (Uranus) into our world, especially in the United States. Times of opportunity can be seen in the astrology chart. In the U.S. chart, Uranus (change) joins Chiron (wound/healing). This symbolizes a need to heal the wounds of humanity. Uranus offers new archetypes, new ways of doing things. The Uranus/Chiron (Aries/Pisces) message is, “The people of the U.S. are suffering. New actions are needed to bring healing and well-being to humanity. So the U.S. can fulfill its spiritual task of standing within the light and leading humanity within and toward the light.” Thursday, Aquarius Moon, Mercury enters Libra. The message, “To bring forth the new order in the world, begin with acts of Goodwill.” Goodwill produces right relations with everyone and everything. The result is a world of progressive well-being and peacefulness (which is neither passive nor the opposite of war). Saturday is the full moon, the solar light of Virgo streaming into the Earth. Our waiting now begins, for the birth of new light at winter solstice. The mother (hiding the light of the soul, the holy child), identifying the feminine principle, says, “I am the mother and the child. I, God (Father), I Matter (Mother), We are One.”

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of August 28

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Land of Plenty

Farm to Fork benefit dinner for UCSC’s Agroecology Center, plus a zippy salsa from Teresa’s Salsa that loves every food it meets

 

If you knew you had one week to live, what would you do?

Make peace with myself, which would allow me to be at peace with others. Diane Fisher, Santa Cruz, Network Engineer

 

Comanche Cellars

Michael Simons, owner and winemaker of Comanche Cellars, once had a trusted steed called Comanche, which was part of his paper route and his rodeo circuit, from the tender age of 10. In memory of this beautiful horse, he named his winery Comanche, and Comanche’s shoes grace the label of each handcrafted bottle.

 

Cantine Winepub

Aptos wine and tapas spot keeps it casual