Were you to ask me some ten years ago who my favorite authors are the name of Nick Hornby would have featured in my answer. Here is the guy that gave us Fever Pitch and High Fidelity, two books that could have been written about me; even their respective films weren't bad. Yet in a process that's probably best symbolized through the American version of the Fever Pitch movie, my affection to Hornby has severely waned since. He still arouses my curiosity, though, resulting in me wanting to check up on An Education (which he wrote).
An Education follows Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a promising high school student whose life is set out to her by her parents (with Alfred Molina doing the father role): she will graduate high school with high marks and go to study English at Oxford. She's almost there, she just needs to work on her Latin; the key point is, she needs to work and often hard. Her target is achievable, though.
Then comes David (Peter Sarsgaard): an adult, a Jew and a great charmer. He charms our Jenny, charms her parents, and with their consent exposes Jenny to a world of temptations (aided by friends played by Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike). Quickly enough our Jenny is no longer focused on her education; but is there a catch? What, exactly, does David want?
An Education turned out to be one of those films that left me staring at the glass' empty half. I failed to understand many of its key points: what was the fuss about David being a Jew all about when it didn't seem to make a difference? More importantly, and without giving away too much, David's reasonings for going through the motions with Jenny end up as clear to the viewer as mud. Given their importance to the coherence of the story, that's a key problem.
A lot of this film is based on Lolita like tension between the girl and the adult man. Often enough I felt a cringe while watching it, finding things a bit too disturbing for me to enjoy. Things go a bit further than The Police Don't Stand So Close to Me's wet bus station. There's nothing graphic taking place (and in real life Mulligan is an adult), but it works through the film's power of suggestion to make me fail to understand the relationship at hand.
On the positive side, An Education is a British film that's justifiably proud of it being British. Not only in its settings (sixties' London), but also in the acting talent on offer. Molina and Emma Thompson in a minor role steal the show, but it's not like the others are bad.
Best scene: Jenny has to start facing up to the facts after she first learns how David makes his money (of which he seems to have a lot). She's shocked but still prefers to turn a blind eye to the dollar (or, in this case, the pound).
Technical assessment: A truly bad DVD. The picture is washed and lacks any level of detail worth talking about. Sound wise, this DVD only has a two channel soundtrack (what happened to 5.1?), and a very mediocre one at that. Couple that with the lack of subtitles and you get a DVD that hinders the film it tries to communicate.
Overall: Sorry, but An Education is too incoherent for me to appreciate its better sides. Clearly, the fault is on the script's side. 2 out of 5 stars.