Saturday, November 20, 2010

An Education

2009, UK, directed by Lone Scherfig

The central narrative of An Education holds few great surprises - from the beginning, the romance between Jenny (Carey Mulligan) and her suave, older suitor David (Peter Sarsgaard) is undercut by musical suggestions of problems on the horizon - but Lone Scherfig is more interested in using that simple template to comment on early 1960s England. In that, she's largely successful, deploying the film's title in multiple overlapping ways: the romance itself becomes an initiation into the ways of the world, compromising, at least for a time, Jenny's path to a place in Oxford (the obsession of her suburban London father). But the film is also about the lessons that Jenny misses: the fraught social status of her Jewish paramour, desperate for acceptance in worlds that are still off limits to him, or the even more precarious social standing of a black family that Jenny sees, fleetingly, through a car window. Scherfig is an acute observer of the fine gradations of the British class system - Jenny is as snobbish as they come, despite being an up and comer herself - as well as the British tendency to romanticize its urban gangsters, in the scenes at a dog track where Peter mixes with the more brutish end of the criminal fraternity.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States