Musings on An Education

Jenny, a sixteen-year-old straight-A student has her world turned upside down when she meet a worldly suitor, David, who seduces her with her glamorous lifestyle and charming existence. Set in early 60s London, both Jenny and her parents are in for ‘an education’ when David’s true nature is finally revealed.

  • Though dealing with a disturbing subject matter,  this movie is as charming as the main character, wooing the audience with gorgeous cinematography of London and Paris, stylish clothes, beautiful music and even more splendid performances. It’s a good looking movie that captures the 60s era nicely and presents a stark contrast between the rather stodgy UK and the lively, joie de vivre French sensibilities.
  • It’s an unlikely ‘feel-good’ drama that still feels romantic even though you know there’s something unsettling brimming under the surface. Something that’s too good to be true usually is, and our naive protagonist ends up learning the hard way.
  • Carey Mulligan is sublime. She is in almost every scene and truly carries the movie in her delicate shoulders with her mesmerizing performance as both an innocent and serious schoolgirl and that of an elegant socialite.
  • I have seen Peter Sarsgaard in various things before, but I’ve always remembered him as John Malkovich’s virtuous son in The Man in the Iron Mask. But his performance here is noteworthy not only because he pulls off a believable British accent (he’s from Illinois).
  • The devil comes in attractive packages indeed, disguised as a cultured, charismatic, soft-spoken gentleman by the name of David Goldman. Sarsgaard plays the scoundrel in such a way he comes across like a monster that he is… not because the character is trying so desperately to hide it, more so because he doesn’t think he is a monster. But the fact is, guys who prey on girls half their age are creepy, and the more sophisticated they are, the more reason to beware. Especially one who has the power not to only seduce a teenage girl but her supposedly wise middle-aged parents in the process!
  • An Education is filled with fine performance all around. I just LOVE Alfred Molina! Even playing an infuriatingly strict father of Jenny, he refuses to simply give a one-note portrayal. Dominic Cooper & Rosamund Pike are both effective as David’s friends and partner in crime in his shady business practices. And the always watchable Emma Thompson and Olivia Williams were excellent in their brief appearances, though I feel they’re somewhat underused here.
  • We all know book education is VERY different from life education and there is no shortcuts for either in order to get it right. This isn’t just a moral lesson for the young though, even those who think we’re older and wiser may still may fall prey to deception when they’re not careful.
  • Author/screenwriter Nick Hornby is no stranger to a coming-of-age story, he dealt with that in About A Boy. Though the boy in the title actually helps a 38-year-old man who needs some growing up to do. Just as he did in there, Hornby peppered this movie with witty dialogue and
  • Wonderful story that seems to end too soon, it felt rushed towards the end when the flow had been right up until she found out who David really is. At 1 hour 35 minutes, I wish they spend a bit more time towards the end as Jenny deals with the ramification of her decision. Instead, there are far too many in the Deleted Scenes list that could’ve been incorporated into the movie.

Glad I finally saw this movie, it’s definitely worth watching though hardly a perfect film. As Peter from Magic Lantern Film said in the comments last Monday, it’s a strong film but perhaps not worthy of a Best Picture nominations. I share that sentiment, though after seeing Mulligan’s performance here, I do think she was totally robbed of an Oscar!

Have you seen this movie? Well, what did you think?

30 thoughts on “Musings on An Education

  1. Interesting. This film did not appeal to me at all and I had no intention of seeing it but after reading your article I am now interested. I am thinking of resurrecting my Saturday evening DVD rental ritual from the my early years, so maybe I’ll rent it.

    1. Y’know, I was mainly curious to see Carey Mulligan’s groundbreaking performance, but the film itself is quite respectable considering the subject matter. Let me know what you think once you see it Ronan.

  2. Sooon. I will see this soon. ARGH. It’s at the top of my queue, and I’ve sort of been uninterested/too busy to watch anything lately, and so I’ve still got stuff sitting at home. But then, I shall finally see it!!

    😀 I’m glad you saw it and liked it!

    1. It took me forever to finally see this, and I feel the same way, too many flicks, too little time! Haven’t even seen The Social Network yet, hopefully Saturday.

  3. Thought Mulligan was great, but as a whole, didn’t really bring anything new to the coming-of-age movie. Still good, but didn’t go crazy for it like a lot of folks did. Hornby is still the man though.

  4. Vince

    Thanks for this review, rtm. This will be in the queue as of today. Alfred Molina is one of my favorite character actors – and probably the best right now. It’s good to see him playing his native Brit. He can play anything in my book.

    1. I’m so going to write my tribute to Alfred Molina one of these days… yes that guy CAN play anything. The first film I saw him was Not Without My Daughter and I thought he was Middle Eastern!

  5. Peter Sarsgaard works David in a way that is just about beyond reproach, and Alfred Molina is wonderful as Jenny’s father, but they are both unsurprising in being as solid as you knew they would be anyway. Like you said though, Mulligan was great all-around.

    1. Hi Marcello, I haven’t seen that many Sarsgaard films to know what to expect actually, but he really was excellent and deserves as much a nod as Mulligan did. But yes about Molina, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad performance out of the man.

  6. Aaah, it’s still my favourite movie of the last year (though Bright Star is almost close to taking that honour away.) I generally love everything about it, including its imperfections like the perceived about face at the end. And Rosamund Pike? Underrated? Cara Seymour? More so.

    (And well yeah, Molina and Mulligan are kind of brilliant.)

    1. I like this movie better than Bright Star, even though I really thought I would be enamored by the Jane Campion flick. But the leading lady in both films definitely have star quality, no doubt both Cornish and Mulligan will continue to charm us in the future.

  7. I liked An Education although I felt the ending was a bit weak and anti-climactic, basically stating that everything we watched was for nothing. Jenny rejects a traditional education for the most part of the movie, only to go back to school. You would think she would be crushed by her romantic adventure gone awry but seemingly, going to Oxford University fixes all ills of the heart?

    1. I agree Castor, the ending is a bit weak in that it feels rushed. I don’t think Jenny rejects traditional education per se, she was simply distracted and too enamored by David that her priority shifts. But in the end I think she realizes the value of her education and comes to embrace it. It’s not Oxford that fixes the ills of heart, but the fact that she gets her life back and she is open to find love again without that unsettling feeling she had with David.

    1. I’d think it’s available in the rental store there Nov. Btw, I’m just curious, do you mostly rent movies there or buy ’em cheap? I used to go to the video store when I was a kid to rent movies, but didn’t do that too often in high school before I moved here.

  8. Great stuff right here! Never thought I would like it as much as I did, and I’m glad I did, because this film really does show a lot of emotion when it comes to its characters, and its overall mood.

  9. It’s interesting how I find all Sarsgaard and Skarsgaards very interesting 🙂
    Anyway, Flixy, just wanted to inform you that Aaron Johnson is waiting for you over at my mansion 🙂 Dressed specially for the occasion 🙂

    1. I’m assuming you’re referring to Skarsgaards from the True Blood show? 🙂

      Oh Dez, you’re too funny. I like Aaron but really he’s just a kid… though I am much younger than his spouse, he..he.. FYI, I much prefer men who dress in a way that leave a bit more to the imagination.

  10. I finally got around to seeing it, and overall enjoyed it. Mulligan was amazing, and when the truth about David was revealed, she really shined.

    And every time i see OLivia WIlliams(The one who played the teacher) i keep thinking back to her role on Dollhouse. I’ve noticed she seems to like playing female authority figures

    1. Also, i feel cGarfield(The guy from the beginning who wanted to travel for a year) got kind of screwed over. I mean, his feelings for Jenny seemed to be genuine, and he wasn’t a liar like David. I was kind of hoping they would get back together at the end of the movie.

    2. Hey Julian, glad you finally saw this. Yes, Mulligan is amazing and yes, Olivia Williams was quite affecting as the teacher. I didn’t know she was in Dollhouse (well how would I, I don’t watch tv! :D) She was good in Ghost Writer also, though I don’t care much about the movie.

      As for they boy who has a crush on her. Yeah, I feel bad for him but I think it wouldn’t really affect the story one way or the other whether she’s back with him or not. I mean, they might not go to the same college and I’d think she’d want to have a fresh start anyway.

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