Thursday, October 22, 2009

Movie reflections

I went to see An Education after work on Tuesday at the Coolidge Corner Cinema in Brookline. I love that theater, and they make awesome popcorn. I think that I cut my tongue though on a popcorn kernel because it feels like I have popcorn stuck in the back of my mouth and no amount of brushing or flossing is moving that sucker. Therefore, I think that I have a cut... or something.

ANYHOW, about the movie, believe the hype. This movie, in its understated indie way, is excellent, although it took me a day and a half of reflection to come up with that assessment. The film was much more character driven than plot, and there were all of these characters approaching this one situation with these varied viewpoints.

The story is this:
The 1960s were a time of change. So is life when you are 16. That combination propels An Education, set in London in 1961, and makes it an unforgettable coming-of-age story.Attractive, bright, 16-year-old Jenny is stifled by the tedium of adolescent routine; she can’t wait for adult life to begin. One rainy day her suburban existence is upended by the arrival of a much older suitor, David. Urbane and witty, David instantly charms Jenny and introduces her to a glittering new world of classical concerts, art auctions, smoky bars, and late-night suppers with his attractive friends. He replaces Jenny’s traditional education with his own more-dangerous version. Just as the family’s long-held dream of getting their brilliant daughter into Oxford has seemed within reach, Jenny is tempted by another kind of life. Will David be the making of Jenny, or her undoing?

In reviews I have read, there are a lot of comparisons between Carey Mulligan's character "Jenny" and "Holly Golightly", which I think is a mistake. Jenny and Holly couldn't be any more different if they tried. I do think that, as Jenny becomes more involved in David's world, she is channeling the style of a young Audrey Hepburn, but that is it. Jenny is her own self, trying to figure out her place in the world as she struggles with dichotomy presented by the opportunities David offers her and the "price" to be paid for them, which lays in conflict with her "bourgeois" values.

Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike are excellent as David (Peter Sarsgaard)'s friends, Danny and Helen, who epitomize the glamorous lifestyle that Jenny yearns for. They look fantastic, but underneath you can see that something is wrong with these people. They live in a world with fancy apartments, clothes, paintings, but something is off, and it makes them more interesting, especially as you realize that they are a huge part of Jenny's attraction to David's world. They claim they are looking out for Jenny, but are they? And what is the relationship between David and Danny really?

I always feel that Peter Sarsgaard plays a creep in movies; even if you like him at the start, there is something he is going to do in the story that is going to make you want to slug him in the nose by the end. Nothing new here. He is charming and does his best to charm Jenny and her parents, who are taken in by his car, his manners, and his "class". I understood why they all fell for him. The thing that wasn't clear to me was why he wanted to indoctrinate Jenny into his world in the first place. Is he a corrupter of youth, or instead does he want to reclaim that innocent excitement and response to his world that Jenny exhibits? Is David bored or disgusted with his life? That isn't clarified, but certainly, looking at it through Jenny's eyes would help make it appealing again.

I lovelovelove Carey Mulligan (from "Bleak House", "Northranger Abbey", "Doctor Who: Blink", etc.) and clearly the camera does too. (Maybe it is the dimples?) She holds her own in scenes with more seasoned actors like Emma Thompson and Olivia Williams (who is still rocking the "Dollhouse") and is such fun to watch with Rosamund Pike (her Pride and Prejudice big sister!) who cannot understand why Jenny wants to "read English books" at Oxford or spontaneously starts speaking French, but does have such fun dressing her up in her old clothes.

I said earlier on that it took me a day and a half of reflection to decide that I really enjoyed this film. The last film that made me feel like that was Rachel Getting Married. I am glad that they are making these wonderful films that don't hit us over the head with emotions, but make us think and work for them. There is something very satisfying about that.

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