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July 10, 2010

Pick of the Week: An Education

An Education - 2009

One of the ten films nominated for Best Picture at the 2010 Academy Awards, "An Education" is probably the one you knew least about, or had never even heard of. Relatively young and lesser-known star Carey Mulligan, also nominated for Best Actress, leads this story as Jenny, a sixteen year old school girl living in the U.K. during the 1960s. At this time, the planning and hard work required to get into college was something you spent all of your teen years focusing on. For women, once you finished college, there weren't a lot of options for careers, even with a degree. A male-dominated society built around status is depicted in a comical way through the ideals of her father, Jack (Alfred Molina, "Spider-Man 2," "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"). When Jenny meets a much older man named David (Peter Sarsgaard, "Garden State," "Jarhead"), who begins to show her a world she's never seen; night clubs, fine art, weekend getaways and a lack of concern for consequences. David's influence begins to affect Jenny's school work, as she begins to question if there is even a point to her education. Her decisions regarding her future backfire when she learns who David really is.

David has the ability to convince Jenny's parents that not only is he a great man, but that this new life she has begun to lead is the best for her. At times, it's hard to believe how gullible they are when David turns on the charm. Jenny, however, is a very intelligent girl, and he must work harder to fool her. You would think when she learns of his dishonest business practices that he may not be who she thinks he is, and that her new life may be too good to be true.

Jenny brings up great questions about society and education which, though outdated, still hold up today. She argues with her headmistress (played by Emma Thompson in a great small role) what the point is of all the hard work when the minute you graduate you have to conform to the job and lifestyle expected of you. She yearns to be part of the glamorous French scene and insults the entire United Kingdom calling all of its inhabitants boring. It's a situation many young adults can relate to when leaving school. You feel like life has been planned out for you and that you must follow that plan, but all you want to do is rebel and completely change your surroundings, your lifestyle and your goals. We always see the opposite of our lives and feel it is better than what we've got, when really it's just different. The expectations of parents comes into play as well, when her father continuously pushes her education and the importance of being connected, arguing that it's better to know a famous author than to actually be one. When Jenny is presented with the option of spending her life with David he suddenly feels that there's no need for her to go to school if she can be a wife instead. Parents still want their children to do better than they did, and sometimes they have a very warped notion of how that is achieved.

Though some plot points are fairly cliched, the story presents a familiar yet unique look at common issues. The acting is fantastic and some of the imagery of the time period really brings you into the story. I can't say it ends in a highly dramatic moment, though there is a dramatic build to it. The ending of the story is realistic and simple, which may not be as entertaining, but it adds to the way the audience can relate.

"If you never do anything, you never become anyone."


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