An Education (2009) (PG-13)

There are many cringe worthy moments in "An Education" just as there are many moments in real-life dramas that remind us of how awkward our lives are. This is no exception. The film tries to create a vaudeville act of cutesy-cute romance and coming-of-age drama—in the end that's all it comes off feeling like—a blown over, run down circus act, brought to life by wonderful actors and horrible ideas.
There's a book that I read a few years ago. It is an anti-abortion book by Francine Rivers called The Atonement Child and it concerns a girl who is raped and becomes pregnant by the rapist. She decides that she will keep the baby...which, Rivers states, is the right decision because abortion in any case is wrong—so says the author. It's a biased work, but I was fine with that. I had a problem with the book when essentially every female character in the novel revealed that they had, at one time, had an abortion. These acts all left marks on the women which was the point Rivers was shooting for. Abortion causes emotional pain.
Okay...where am I going with this?
In the same fashion that Rivers blunders her readers over the head with story after story after story about how abortion is bad, "An Education" also takes the stereotypes of its sub-genre and plays them out again and again until you are weary and tired of them.
Walking home from school one day, sixteen year old Jenny (Carey Mulligan) gets surprised by a rainstorm. Placing her cello under her arm, she stands in the rain, waiting for something...I still don't know what. A strange man in a nice car pulls up next to her and offers to keep her cello safe from the rain. A cute dialogue takes place and the inevitable happens—he gives her a car ride home.
Jenny is much like the title character of "Amélie", she's a freakin' hipster. She likes French music, jazz records, reading books, and smoking a cigarette on a lonely balcony overlooking a dimly lit nighttime city. Her future is already planned for her by her parents: she will go to Oxford and get a degree and then fall into the stereotypical doings of a woman.
Set in post-WWII England, "An Education" is the furthest thing from a feminist movie, though it would like to be just that. Rather, in the modus operandi of Twain's Huck Finn, the film is about a young person learning about the world—how it can be an exciting and frightening place full of wonders and lies.
But Jenny could sing a song from "Beauty and the Beast" because she just wants more than this provincial life. Along comes a David. The man who gives her the car ride, played by Peter Sarsgaard then sends her flowers when she has a concert, wishing her luck. Becoming intrigued by the mysterious and charming man, Jenny devotes more of her time to adventures with David than she does to her schoolwork.
The moment of "ew" featured in the film are too get the feeling that you're watching a Jimmy Fallon sketch. Discounting the pedophiliac nature of the movie, "An Education" proves that if you've seen pretty much any other movie, you're not going to be surprised by the film. Jenny is oblivious to the darkness that creeps up on her...but the audience isn't. We spotted it the moment that David drove up in his stupid car.
At the end of the film, through all the phony monologues and dialogues, we are left wondering what the point of it all was. Certainly "An Education" does a terrific job in showing how life doesn't always turn out how your expected; but the moral of the movie seems to serve more of an education purpose.
Whoa! Sorry about that, I was distracted by all the hipsters.
Honestly, "An Education" isn't anything but terrible. Still, I am apparently the only one who thinks this way. The film captured the attention of all the critics and gained three Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. I'm happy that Carey Mulligan got attention for the movie, because she's a very talented actress; but her performance doesn't outweigh the incredible amount of cliche found within the film.
If nothing else the film proves that people who are too good to be true are just that—too good to be true. But we all knew that, so just steer away from this one.
That is, unless you like being beaten into a bloody pulp by a moral.

Score: ★★

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