“AN EDUCATION” (Carey Mulligan & Peter Sarsgaard)
This film made me think – What is acceptable pedophilia? The answer could be this movie because, despite the fact that it concerns a man well into his thirties seducing a 16 year old student, I wasn’t as disgusted by it as I expected I might. It helped that Jenny, the student, was played by actress Carey Mulligan; although she has a very youthful appearance, there were crinkles in her face and other signs that she wasn’t nearly as young as the character she was portraying.
Peter Sarsgaard plays David, the creepy older guy that charms Jenny’s father (Alfred Molina) into allowing him to date his teenaged daughter – Making ‘dad’ almost as creepy as David. I liked this film even though I found most of the characters to be rather bland; it is Mulligan’s performance that kept it interesting.
Jenny is an excellent student whose main drive is to be accepted into Oxford. She has a classmate, Graham, who is infatuated with her but exceptionally shy & much too ‘simple’ for Jenny to take seriously as boyfriend material. Being afflicted with acute shyness myself, I related to Graham – Yet at the same time, I knew he was way out of Jenny’s league & that he should have set his sights on one of Jenny’s girlfriends.
David spies Jenny waiting for a ride during a downpour & worms his way into becoming an acceptable stranger by offering to give her cello a ride, since she should never get into a car with a complete stranger. “How do I know you won’t drive off with my cello?” Jenny asks, so David gives her enough money to cover the cost of the instrument should he decide to dash off with it.
David offers to show Jenny a world she thought unattainable for a girl her age and is even successful into conning her parents into allowing to take her for an entire weekend. They make David a little less creepy by having him accept the fact that Jenny wants to remain a virgin until her 17th birthday (& when that day finally comes, he blows it by using the old ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ gag of the banana in the tailpipe routine)
Even though David is much more ‘worldly’ than Jenny, it is made clear that she is the more mature of the two – Another reason the ‘creepy’ aspect was palatable; she acted like someone much older than her age while he was somewhat immature (When he wants to use childish nicknames for one another, she tells him she’d rather not)
Her new lifestyle leads to her grades falling & her hopes of getting into Oxford dim.
So she faces the dilemma of ‘Do I need an education if David is going to take care of me for the rest of my life?’
Eventually Jenny turns to her favorite teacher, who is not without her ‘creepy’ side as you get the strong feeling that she also has a crush on her ex-student.
Despite having all these ‘older’ suitors (David’s best friend/business partner also undresses Jenny with his eyes) Jenny somehow manages to stay innocent enough to make you hope she comes through this ordeal unscathed. Normally I avoid Older man/much younger woman stories, but this one, along with the excellent “Crazy Heart” are making me re-think my position that they should be banned for promoting child abuse.
A nice little film, well acted (Sarsgaard displays a very subtle British accent that works, if you’ll pardon the expression, like a ‘charm’) but does it belong among the 10 best of the year? No, not when you consider the much more entertaining ‘Crazy Heart’ wasn’t nominated. Still, I’m glad I saw it so I can say that Carey Mulligan definitely deserved to be nominated for Best Actress.