Reviewed in the United States on January 16, 2011
Bottom-Line: "An Education," is empty, vapid, detached, tedious, and in the end totally pointless.
Every once and a while a true talent steps onto the worlds' acting stage, someone who bears watching and indeed is a pleasure to watch no matter what vehicle may showcase their talents. Such is the case with British-born, 24-year old actress Carey Mulligan who took top billing in last years "An Education (2010)," also starting Peter Sarsgaard.
Directed by Lone Scherfig (Wilbur, Red Road, Just Like Home), "An Education" takes place is London in the early 1960's. Carey Mulligan (Pride & Prejudice, Never Let Me Go, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) portrays Jenny a sixteen year old girl from a middle-class family striving to get into Oxford University. She is helped along in this regard by her father Jack (Alfred Molina ~ Spider-Man 2, Silk, Frida), and mother Marjorie (Cara Seymour ~ American Psycho, Gangs of New York, Adaptation).
One rainy day after cello practice as she is standing in a downpour waiting for(?), David, portrayed by Peter Saragaard ~ Jarhead, Boys Don't Cry, Flightplan) happens by with a delightful little car and offers Jenny a ride. At first she is reluctant, after all David is roughly twice her age, but eventually she relents, worn down by his considerable charm. Afterwards, David, with the consent of Jenny's parents starts to show her that there are other things in life other than school and study.
David introduces Jenny to his running mates Danny (Dominic Cooper ~ The Duchess, Mamma Mia, The History Boys) and Helen (Roseamund Pike ~ Pride & Prejudice, Die Another Day, Fracture) and together the four start to live the high life and educating Jenny.
"An Education" is a bore! This reviewer hardly knows where to begin complaining about this movie it is largely emotionless, mundane, sexless, and belonged on Lifetime Television, not on the big screen. And there were considerable problems with the script. First, what self-respecting parents would let their 16-year old daughter spend afternoons and evenings, let alone weekends away with a grown man twice her age? Seriously? In fact everyone in this deflated little tale is made to look like a clown in order to make Jenny, the protagonist appear worldlier than her 16 years would otherwise suggest.
And where was the romance in this little farce? David is charming, and it's easy to understand how a girl of Jenny's naiveté could fall under his spell, but he is never overly romantic towards Jenny. There were no stolen kisses, no long, lingering glances, no hand holding, waist hugging, face stroking, no caresses, no poetry laced words. There is no attempt made to make Jenny fall in love with David, to see him as anything more than a friend introducing her to Jazz and fine art, but suddenly he's asking to see her breasts, and this is before the first kiss; The Graduate (1967), "An Education" isn't, the movie lacks the passion, titillation, emotional depth, and drama of that classic coming-of-age story.
Yes, David eventually deflowers Jenny, but we are not witness to the event; it happens and the two (alleged) lovers discuss the matter afterward--fully clothed--as if they were discussing what to order from room service!
Mulligan, who could be Katie Holmes' younger sister, gives the only (partially) nuanced and emotionally compelling performance in the movie. And though she is interesting and engaging to watch, even she could not elevation, and or transform, "An Education" into something I could recommend with a straight face. Mulligan is just a momentary distraction (albeit a damn adorable one) from the inconsistencies and incongruities so inherent in the other characters.
And as the end plays out Jenny finds evidence that David isn't what he holds himself out to be all too conveniently, and as it turns out stupidly, for David is not beginner at this sort of behavior. But, Jenny's discovery leads us nowhere; there is no dramatic flourish, no emotional or physical explosion; there is nothing and that is the problem with "An Education," the movie is empty, vapid, detached, tedious, and in the end totally pointless.