Most people, myself included, only know of An Education as that inexplicable indie film that somehow got nominated for Best Picture. Now, having seen it myself, I’m still not quite sure how it managed that feat. Not that this is a bad film, because it is a very good film; perhaps even a great film. But while I enjoyed the experience, and the film as a whole, it didn’t have that “wow” factor that I expect out of Best Picture nominees or Palme d’Or winners (though I may have to reassess my judgment on the latter). So, does An Education have anything going for it? Absolutely.
The story deals with a young schoolgirl named Jenny, played marvelously by Carey Mulligan, and how she meets sweet, charming David (Peter Sarsgaard, in a perfectly complimentary performance), with whom she quickly develops an infatuation with. Now, if that were all that were to the story, this wouldn’t be nearly as critically acclaimed as it is, and thankfully, it’s not; David is a professional con man, a fact that Jenny doesn’t find out until about halfway through the film, and while his love for Jenny certainly appears as genuine, once we find out a few more secrets about David and his real life, everything we think we know about the man is thrown into question. And that’s the brilliance of it; we are experiencing the exact same burgeoning and shifting relationship with David as Jenny is, and while the logical side of us wonders how a young girl can seemingly throw her life away in the face of a smooth-talking slickster, part of us willingly gets taken in by David – he’s just so dang charming, and says all the right things, that that same part of us desperately wants everything to go all right for Jenny, even though there is always that naggling feeling in the back of our heads that there is something we should be more concerned about. As for the technicals, what jumped out at me right from the opening credits is the film’s extensive use of theme music, which helps tremendously to absorb us into the film, as do the pitch-perfect performances and very flowery (in a good way) script. Well done all around.
While I wasn’t quite sure why the film was titled ‘An Education’ (though plenty of theories abound; most likely, the “education” or life experience Jenny gets from almost throwing her life away for this con man), I was pleased to find that I didn’t dislike this film in the least. I went into it thinking it was just one of the throwaways that managed a Best Picture nom and little else, and came out of it very pleasantly surprised. I’m still not too sure it should’ve gotten that coveted slot at the Academy Awards, or even if it really was good enough or unique enough to make the list (before it was removed the next edition), I still highly enjoyed the film for what it was. I’m always gleeful at hidden gems I somewhere, some way unearth from the rubble that surrounds them, and while this may not be a diamond, it is almost certainly a jewel of some kind, though I may still not be too sure what kind it is exactly. Take a chance with this one; you might be just as enthusiastic coming out of it as I was.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10