"I feel old...but not so wise."I never liked the phrase "coming of age film." It just sounds ridiculous, not to mention pretentious. And it always describes someone who "comes" to an age far beyond their years. So, in essence, they're rather coming to an age that's not their own.
Much is the story of Jenny (Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan), a sixteen year old English teen who's on the fast track to attend Oxford University, just like her father always wanted in An Education. Trouble is, on the brink of her seventeenth birthday Jenny becomes fascinated by all things opposite of her path to Oxford--all things that begin and end with David (Peter Sarsgaard), a man nearly twice her age who shows her life outside of the small, structured world that had become her life.
Leaving behind her life of schoolbooks and French lessons, Jenny is swept into a life of chain smoking, grown-up parties and Parisian rendezvous, plunging head first into the overwhelming world of prepubescent adulthood and right into a whirlwind love affair. David shows Jenny a world she only dreamed of--a world that just as quickly as she was enchanted by, she was also disposed of. Jenny learns that life as an adult isn't as wonderful as she had imagined, and that sometimes growing up at your own pace makes the path to life even sweeter.
What's good about Mulligan's performance is that it's subtle, and seemingly very natural. What's underwhelming about An Education is that all the drama that naturally occurs in a situation like Jenny's was missing. It moved quite slowly, even though the storyline was about moving very quickly. And just when things start to rev up in the movie, the credits begin to roll. In a way you're left disappointed. But then again, that's just how Jenny felt when she thought her life was just beginning. Peter Sarsgaard was charming as the older man, but his character could have been much stronger than it played onscreen. All in all, An Education was a decent film, just left much to be desired.
Reel Talk rating: B