An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

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domino harvey
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An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#1 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 02, 2009 1:26 am

Like Matt a few weeks ago, I guess I have to be the one to make a thread about a movie most of you are planning to skip. But do so at your own peril, for An Education really is quite a charming picture, lifting its best attributes straight out of the classical Hollywood playbook. Though this leads to the film going on about ten minutes past where it should have, overall the effect is tremendous. While the lead role is custom-built for star-making, Mulligan earns it and the Hepburn comparisons are surely going to follow her all the way to the podium. And in any other year, Molina'd probably be looking at a Supporting Actor win here too. Leanly composed and surprisingly funny, this is the best form of Oscar Bait: the kind that deserves it.

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Jeff
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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#2 Post by Jeff » Mon Nov 02, 2009 1:36 am

I liked it a lot too, Domino. Carey Mulligan is absolutely charming. There were times when a certain face she made or something reminded me very much of Michelle Williams. I actually thought while watching the film yesterday, "that girl is going to end up as Domino Harvey's avatar someday." True story.

Molina is so versatile. Taking a look at his filmography from Raiders to this is mind-boggling. So many different roles, and he's seemed perfect for all of them. I think he's still in the hunt for Best Supporting Actor this year.

The story is as formulaic as they come, but the performances more than make up for it.

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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#3 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Nov 02, 2009 1:42 am

Does this come off nearly as icky as it does in any synopsis I've read? If there's one thing in film that I have a difficult time getting past, it's the romanticizing of the older man/much younger (sub 21) woman courtship. I'd imagine it's not too rare a hang-up, but I just get particularly skeeved by it even when it's glossed up. I'll never enjoy Manhattan nearly as much as I should because of it, for example.

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domino harvey
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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#4 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 02, 2009 1:54 am

Actually, and this is a spoiler, I'd say no, but based on your stated problems, yes.
SpoilerShow
In fact, the welcome attitude of the parents, who believe his flash with almost as much vigor as their daughter, was one of the things that really struck me. Well, that and that skeevy scene where Prince Charming wants "Minnie" to pull her blouse down :shock:

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domino harvey
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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#5 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 02, 2009 1:57 am

Jeff wrote:I think he's still in the hunt for Best Supporting Actor this year.
I think he'll definitely get nominated, but unless the Weinsteins run the Inglorious Nazi in the Best Actor category (which they might), he'll lose

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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#6 Post by Jeff » Mon Nov 02, 2009 2:11 am

I too was struck by how much the age difference didn't seem to be an issue for the supporting characters in the film (parents, schoolmates). I supposed that attitudes in swinging sixties London may have been more lax. Mulligan's character turns 17 during the course of the film, and Sarsgaard's is in his 30s. The age difference is mentioned as a potential problem, but it seems far from scandalous. The relationship isn't ultimately romanticized, but if this sort of thing bothers you, mfunk, your definitely going to find yourself creeped out. Mainly by the scene that Domino spoilered.

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domino harvey
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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#7 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 02, 2009 2:14 am

I don't think
SpoilerShow
the banana
is gonna do much for him either :shock:

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Brian C
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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#8 Post by Brian C » Mon Nov 02, 2009 1:11 pm

domino harvey wrote:...An Education really is quite a charming picture, lifting its best attributes straight out of the classical Hollywood playbook. Though this leads to the film going on about ten minutes past where it should have, overall the effect is tremendous. While the lead role is custom-built for star-making, Mulligan earns it and the Hepburn comparisons are surely going to follow her all the way to the podium. And in any other year, Molina'd probably be looking at a Supporting Actor win here too. Leanly composed and surprisingly funny, this is the best form of Oscar Bait: the kind that deserves it.
I felt pretty much the same way.

One thing that I think it got right is the personality of Jenny. She's obviously more advanced than her classmates, but her sheltered upbringing has kept her so naive. Nonetheless, having created a clever and self-aware protagonist, the filmmakers stay true to that, and allow her some say in the outcome. I feel a lesser movie would have pigeon-holed her as a "victim" or somesuch, and ended up as a simple-minded morality play about poor young girls and how they should know their place.

I also appreciated that Scherfig simply skipped some of the more melodramatic scenes, such as
SpoilerShow
her losing her virginity or her telling her parents that David is married.
These are scenes that would have most likely tended towards cliche, and it was more economical to skip them anyway.

That said, I wish she could have found a way to skip the last ten minutes. I don't really think the movie benfitted at all from
SpoilerShow
the montage of her studying for her exams.
It left a more conventional aftertaste than the film really deserved. Still, overall, it's an elegant little charmer.

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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#9 Post by Cronenfly » Tue Nov 03, 2009 2:25 am

I have to call out the opening credits as well, which establish far too whimsical a tone given what's to come. It's a minor detail in some ways, but it tripped me up getting into the film more quickly than I did. Other than that and the closing scene(s), this was indeed pretty solid, if not the masterpiece some critics have been hailing it as.

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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#10 Post by puxzkkx » Tue Nov 03, 2009 7:17 am

I'm excited to see this, but pissed off it hasn't reached my town yet. Probably too "arthouse" for my local movie theatre's manager (and I know his prejudices... I used to work for him).

I do have reservations, as I completely hated Scherfig's sophomore effort Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, where her approach is nothing short of offensive.

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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#11 Post by domino harvey » Tue Nov 03, 2009 8:13 am

Cronenfly wrote:I have to call out the opening credits as well, which establish far too whimsical a tone given what's to come. It's a minor detail in some ways, but it tripped me up getting into the film more quickly than I did.
If the main character isn't prepared for what happens, why should we be any different?

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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#12 Post by Cronenfly » Wed Nov 04, 2009 12:15 am

The opening was designed to be bright and attention-grabbing, but I found it to be a waste of screen time within the context of an already fairly short movie. It didn't establish the setting/time period in an interesting way and gave no sort of impression of Jenny's worldview/character (though I might just have been annoyed by the credits' design similarities to Juno/Away We Go [the doodle look]). I was probably wrong to criticize it as too upbeat, because the opening likely could have succeeded with that tone, but the credits as they stand felt like they were from another (far worse) movie to me.

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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#13 Post by puxzkkx » Mon Nov 16, 2009 7:58 pm

SPOILERS!!!

Pleasantly surprised by this film, considering I thought Scherfig's "Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself" was probably the worst 'serious' film of its year.

Scherfig makes a step up in every way here - there's a few tics that detract from the film as a whole - the cutesy opening credits, the weirdly spliced-in v.o. at the end and a misjudged third act montage.

But she decides to go relatively straightforward with her treatment here, and it is a great choice that illuminates the excellent script and great ensemble performances. She also wisely makes the decision not to make a judgment on Jenny and David's relationship. She lets the inherent emotional complexity in scenes such as Jenny & David's first night together, the "banana" scene, and David talking Jenny out of walking out once she realizes how shady his dealings might be, stand for itself.

I'm very glad that I liked Carey Mulligan - I did have some reservations from the look of the trailer. I'm certainly positive that she could win Best Actress for this performance - her story arc is very strong, she carries the entire film, has an instantly likeable but still complex character and is in almost every shot of every single scene, but comparing it to Streep's is like comparing apples and hyenas. Completely different things.

"A star is born" is an apt description. What she does with the role isn't the most tricky, creative form of acting, but she is refreshingly unmannered in the part and conveys just as much about her character through unexpected off-the-cuff line readings, body language and, ahem, "smize". The press attention and casting buzz she has received has been well-received. I'm sure I'll find better performances to support this year but this one is certainly worthy of a nomination and even a win.

Sarsgaard fares worse - he's pretty much a blank slate, letting the script do his work for him at every turn. He's not charismatic enough or creative enough with his performance to make his relationship with Jenny at all plausible. Certainly the worst performance in the film - and the accent's terrible. Also, the 'skeez' factor could really hurt his chances at a nomination, if only for a really uncomfortable (but well-directed and -written) scene involving a banana.

Wasn't a huge fan of Molina, either. Old hat if you're familiar with the actor's canon, but I admit that his final scene (and the one that'll probably cinch him a nomination - but I'm not expecting this performance to win), while helped along by judicious use of music and cutting, is quite moving.

The peripheral actors are, on the whole, quite good. Rosamund Pike is excellent as the hyena with lipstick, engineering a subtle character arc with her performance that most likely wasn't on the page. There's cold steel behind the glassy smile in her early exchanges with Jenny, and as the girl grows on her we see new facets to her personality - culminating in a quite haunting final scene where she reveals that perhaps Helen was just another 'Jenny' scenario that went on a bit longer than it should have, perhaps sans the cultural appreciation and ambition.

Although, for me, the stronger female supporting performance was given by Olivia Williams, whose character is styled in a way that is almost stereotypical, but in her role she displays an openness and control over a range of tones that she's never showed before as an actress.

Smaller roles are all quite good - Emma Thompson and Sally Hawkins provide vivid cameos, the latter in one of the strangest and most interesting scenes of the film. Matthew Beard is excellent in a small role as Jenny's schoolboy suitor. Cara Seymour's typical English mum role borders on pantomime, but hers is an interesting feat of casting of only because she looks almost exactly like Mulligan. Dominic Cooper is perfectly capable in an underwritten part, but the lack of clarity regarding his and Pike's relationship in the film is disappointing.

Recommended!

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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#14 Post by Grand Illusion » Sat Dec 05, 2009 3:53 am

I enjoyed this quiet film. A simple story, told simply. Kudos to Scherfig for pacing the story well and then allowing the performances to tell the tale. Much has been said about Carey Mulligan's portrayal. She embodies perfectly the contradictions of her character and of youth. She is worldly but inexperienced; graceful but out-of-place; sharp with a British wit but soft-hearted.

I don't think Sarsgaard is getting enough praise for his portrayal. He doesn't get to ACT his way all over this film. His choices are always subtle and understated. And it's for good reason.

The scene that really unlocks the film for me is when he admits to his business partner that Jenny might be "the one." The way he says it and the very existence of the scene is the key to his character.

He actually believes she is the one. She might be the end of a cycle. He could settle down with her. Really, he could. She likes the same hedonistic pleasures he does. She could be the one. And I believe that he believes that. What we find out later, obviously, is that this character cannot possibly have Jenny as "the one." Nonetheless, he believes his own lie.

This is not the story of one child. It is the story of two children.

Scherfig and Sarsgaard construct the character of David as someone that is just as taken in by the sensual pleasures as Jenny. He believes in the lure of Paris. He believes in getting the adrenaline kicks from his "business." Keep in mind the
SpoilerShow
banana
scene. Or how he calls Jenny baby-names. Or how everything is a game to him -- not only seducing the girl, but her father! He's a Freudian psychoanalyst's dream case. In fact, because these are two children, the "creepy factor" is drastically reduced, and the story plays out as it should.

Through the lightness of touch and the ambiguities within, the film takes what could be a simple coming of age film and uses it to critique what happens when someone does not "come of age." Jenny takes her experience as a cautionary tale. David never grows out of his ideology of instant gratification, and he is trapped in his cycle of unfulfillment. And yes, this will continue for him.

The film plays out Jenny's story, and I believe the childlike wonder that Sarsgaard finds in his own character is central to making the viewer understand the complete heft of Jenny's decision to turn away from the lifestyle. And by "lifestyle," I mean the luxurious lifestyle that is portrayed, appropriately, as quite enjoyable. Scherfig rejects the easy route of showing evil in decadence or similar heavy-handedness.

The light touch, which I praised earlier, allows Scherfig to pull some punches. Always keeping the film on the side of grace and lightness, rather than grit or emotional weight. Some moments do not resonate as strongly as they could. I mention this not as a flaw, but rather as a tonal choice that will leave some satisfied and some left wanting more. Usually, I like my films as I like my sucker punches. To the gut. And that's not what you get here.

The denouement is the denouement. Conventional, sure. Maybe I'm jaded by Hollywood films, but it didn't bother me. It could be more interesting, but it's nothing that should really count against the film.

It's nice to see a small-scale character piece told without bells and whistles. That's what this is, and it hits the correct notes. Pacing, character, and melodrama. Add in some British wit and star performances from Mulligan, Sarsgaard, and Molina, and you've got a great film.

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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#15 Post by puxzkkx » Thu Dec 10, 2009 5:45 am

There were two moments from this film that I still think about a lot - one is the way
SpoilerShow
Sally Hawkins' character says "No! You stay here!" when Mulligan's character is fleeing the scene
and two is the scene when Rosamund Pike's character says
SpoilerShow
"When I found out..." and then Cooper's character shuts her up
. Both are very haunting choices in both writing and acting, and they open up worlds that could be explored through whole films of their own.

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domino harvey
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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#16 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 02, 2010 3:53 pm

Oh hey, that ending could have been more on the nose

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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#17 Post by domino harvey » Mon Nov 01, 2010 7:06 pm

Jeff wrote:There were times when a certain face she made or something reminded me very much of Michelle Williams.
I think she might actually be Michelle Williams:

Image

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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#18 Post by Jeff » Mon Nov 01, 2010 9:21 pm

Uncanny. And Ryan Gosling gets teamed with both of 'em. Bastard.

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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#19 Post by FerdinandGriffon » Mon Nov 01, 2010 9:32 pm

The guy plays it safe though. He's wearing gloves for a Rubik's cube.

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Re: An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

#20 Post by D50 » Thu Mar 06, 2014 11:11 am

That alternate ending is in the deleted scenes. And after seeing it, then watching the film a second time, you notice they didn't cut out his dark purple sports car parallel parked at the T interseciton at the end of the scene where they are bicycling down the road at Oxford.

Also, during another deleted scene, when Sally Hawkins says no, you stay here, she does, and you see Hawkins walk away pushing the baby carriage and the son in tow. Then you notice in the beginning, when Jenny is waiting at the bus stop in the rain, a lady crosses the street pushing a baby carriage, and the little boy's boot comes off and she stops in the middle of the street to put it back on, and you see David's car behind, waiting to pull up to the girl and cello.

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