Scripted by the reputably witty novelist Nick Hornby, who’s dialogue- a tight and jocular zeitgeist of British sixties repartee- seems to relevantly hark back to the timeless romance classics of an era gone by; and the cadence of which gives the scenes a life and energy that sets the film apart from others of its kind. Based on the brief memoir of Lynn Barber, Hornby takes an archetypal storyline and makes it appear refreshingly novel, while riddling it with abundant references to appropriate art, music and literature, including a few heavy-handed acknowledgments to the classic coming of age novel Jane Eyre.
An Education frequently and lavishly skills us in the auditory and ocular delights of the time; specifically those afforded to the upper classes, such as art, fine dining, classical music, etc.; with the soundtrack of the film featuring whimsical Parisian harmonies of Juliette Greco, the smooth 60’s jazz of various artists and even snippets of timeless classical pieces.
The performances here are altogether proficient. Notably, Rosamund Pike, who is surprisingly hilarious as the vacant, vapid Helen; and even the terribly miscast American thespian Peter Sarsgaard- who is typically more akin to John Malkovich than Cary Grant- does a reasonable job as Henry, the charming British rogue. Though An Education naturally belongs to the captivating charisma of relative neophyte Carey Mulligan, who carries the film with ease and sophistication far beyond both her experience level and age. She is the real throbbing heart of the film; dually exhibiting intelligence and sagacity in abundance while still retaining the capability of falling back into the naivety of youth- she is able to transform little inconsequential moments into something quite prodigious.
The film as a whole acts like one of the smooth, beguiling jazz tune's of its soundtrack, floating over the viewer, caressing delicately with words and nuances, painting rich pictures with its melody, capturing your attention completely, and yet never quite persuading you that this is what you want to be listening to. The enchanting delicacy of its harmony unravels towards the end, losing its way within the complexity of its own ambition; as the film’s fundamental message is just not presented convincingly enough.
An Education is a well-worn coming of age tale set within an intransigent and arduous world (especially for free-spirited females); and is ignited by a simple yet powerful performance from its young star. The film may be somewhat undone by a cliché and feeble climax, and an arbitrary and unnecessary voice-over closing- yet it ultimately offers us a course in how much things have changed over the years, how some things never seem to change, and that the lessons we learn along the way are what matters most in the end.
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