AN EDUCATION is based off the memoir by Lynn Barber and the screenplay was written by Nick Hornby, who also wrote the novels, HIGH FIDELITY and ABOUT A BOY (one of my favorites). This is his first actual screenplay which will probably be nominated for an Academy Award. Ironically the story is the one weakness for me, but not in the traditional sense.
In the 1960’s, Jenny, a bright young girl, is working her hardest in a London suburb to get into Oxford per her fathers wishes. She strikes up a relationship with David, a man twice her age, who shows her a ritzy, do-what-you-want, party life style. She discovers he makes his money in not the most honorable way and has to decide to either follow her education or follow the free spirited life style with this older gentleman.
Everything about this film is done well. The set design and costuming for the period look fantastic. The cinematography is visually pleasing. It’s one of those films that, no matter how much you hate it, makes smoking look cool again. And the editing smoothly transitions the story at a brisk pace without an unnecessary moment. The acting in the film is terrific. Specifically Carey Mulligan as Jenny who projects a strength and wisdom beyond her years. She played her character effortlessly which is no easy feat when playing an intelligent young girl going through a range of emotions when discovering life for the fist time; handling love, fear and morality. She gives one of the strongest performances of the last year. The supporting cast is very strong as well with Peter Sarsgaard as David, Alfred Molina as the father, Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike as David’s friends Danny and Helen. I only wish that Olivia Williams and Emma Thompson as Jenny’s teaching staff could have received more screen time. They were an important part of Jenny’s story and an influence that I felt were underutilized.
This is a good movie but like THE READER last year my problem comes with the story. Maybe it’s my fault since both are based off true events, but I can’t understand for the life of me some of the decisions that are made here. The actions of some of these people is frustrating to no end. I know people do illogical things all the time but it never ceases to frustrate me. Contrary to schoolyard nicknames, I am not a 16-year-old girl nor do I have a 16-year-old girl so maybe I have a tough time relating. However, she was my favorite part of the film. She continually reaches out for someone to explain what the right decision is, but no one does. Alfred Molina is so likeable that he almost pulls off the impossible of not thinking his character made a horrible mistake. Nevertheless, it is impossible, a father allowing a 16-year-old girl to have a relationship with a man twice her age is never right. Maybe if at some moment I was buying the relationship and the façade but that never happened. The story went a predictable route that I believe all the characters surrounding Jenny should have seen coming. I felt the story left out convenient moments and questions that would have been asked.
I have a feeling I might be completely alone on this one, but my feelings towards the story and actions of the characters overrides how well this movie is put together. I walked out irritated, questioning too many holes which I believe the characters (and screenwriters) should have done as well.