Monday, November 23, 2009

An Education

Well it only took nearly a decade of frustration for Nick Hornby to get off his duff and serve up two slices of greatness. An author I like doing stuff I can stand, a fella could get used to that.

It feels odd crediting so much of the film’s admirable success to Hornby, after all not only is it directed by Lone Scherfig whose work I am not familiar with, and is based on another person’s memoir, so its possible she had something to do with the story. But its weary humanism, and wry humor feel so very much like Hornby, that I can’t help but approach it as his work.

An Education tells the story of an ill fated love affair between a teenage girl in 60’s Britain and a man twice her age, played by Peter Sarsgaard. It’s a slice life movie in all the best ways. Rendered in all the rich details of our most painful memories. Its also one of the most perfectly cast movie of the year. Odd that I took an opportunity in my Juliet Naked review to complain about the deterioration of skill, in Hornby’s secondary casts, because his knack with his supporting cast is in full flower here.

From Alfred Molina’s stoop shouldered, good hearted, but clumsy father (his “wandering Jew” sequence is some kind of perfection), to the great Olivia William’s reprising her role in Rushmore but fifteen years older and a great deal sadder and Emma Thompson in a delightfully caustic acid tongue cameo. Sarsgaard is tremendous, not playing his usual role but letting his character’s inherent sleaze show through his inherent charm by degrees. For my money the real scene stealers are Domnic Cooper and Rosamund Pike (Whose willfull ignorance is laugh out loud hilarious) as David’s best friends and semi willing partners in crime.

And of course there’s Carey Mulligan, who has been receiving mountain loads of hype and might just deserve some of it. Perhaps even most of it, swinging as she does between charming, funny, vulnerable, and occasionally stupid. She’s not afraid to play her character as unlikable and in the process ends up making her loveable.

Part of me hopes An Education stays small, though I doubt its likely. It seems the type of gentle movie that backlash can crush. In which case I’m glad I saw it early, its effects are still buzzing warmly around my head.

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