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« Doc Corner: Chinese Rappers,Wildfires,Queer History and More in These 8 Documentary Shorts| Main| Oscar's International Race Pt 4 - Returning Directors »
Wednesday
Oct 09 2019

10th Anniversary: "An Education"

By Cláudio Alves

An Educationtells the story of Jenny Mellor,an English schoolgirl who,in 1961,falls into the trap of an older man's affections.In the process,she almost squanders away her dreams of Oxford,thinking she's trading a hopelessly boring life for one of excitement.After all,if the years slaving over books are the best of one's life,why bother?

One of the loveliest aspects of the film is how it refuses to offer easy answers to its dilemmas.Throughout,we see many women who chose different paths and,thanks to director Lone Scherfig and screenwriter Nick Hornby,all of them are humanized and sympathetic.There are no villains inAn Education,no one is wrong or completely right.These are people and not mere plot points or narrative mechanisms.We can imagine all of them living their lives,being the protagonists of their stories.

It's not surprising thatAn Educationhas lived on as an actors' showcase above all else.Many of its performers would go on to greater fame,though the star has arguably not yet reached these heights again...

Back in 2009,An Educationfelt like "a star is born"moment for Carey Mulligan.Many compared her to Audrey Hepburn and she was even Oscar-nominated.However,the golden prospects many envisioned didn't come to pass,no matter how much she has proven her talents since.Shame,Far from the Madding CrowdandWildlifeall feature admirable performances,but she never again captured the Academy's attention.After the brilliance ofAn Education,even her best efforts feel like disappointments.That's how much of an impression she made.(Still,Mulligan has never been lacking for work since,and works regularly in TV,stage,and film.)

Jenny is the sort of young woman who wears her precociousness as a badge of honor.She's still immature and Mulligan illustrates this by showing us how Jenny hides beneath a mask of faux sophistication.When she dances seductively,she giggles before schooling her face.Other times,Mulligan manages to highlight Jenny's innocence and her harshness in the same line reading,showing how this schoolgirl can be cruel.Though the character might be lost in a voyage of self-discovery,the actress never is and her performance is as assured as it is impressive.

Peter Sarsgaard played David,the debonair man who oozes the sort of sophistication Jenny craves and appreciates her good taste too.With a perfect cocktail of smarminess and charm,Sarsgaard is perfect and,at the time,still seemed en route to an Oscar nomination in years to come.Boys Don't Cry,Shattered GlassandKinseyall paved the way for such glories andAn Educationonly solidified his claim to gold.Since then,the actor hasn't managed to secure any Oscary role and his work has largely not been as impressive since.

On the other hand,Rosamund Pike and Dominic Cooper,who played David's cohorts,capitalized on their golden promise and have transmuted into veritable stars.Pike,who spent many years as a scene-stealing wonder,capable of complicating even the most thankless of roles,finally got a part worthy of her talents withGone Girland more leading roles have followed.Cooper,in the meantime,dipped his toes in the MCU (as Howard Stark) and became a TV star thanks toPreacher.

As for Jenny's parents,Alfred Molina andCara Seymour,they continue to be brilliant character actors.From all theAn Educationsupporting cast,Molina surely came closest to a nomination,in part because he is the loudest of them all.Still,what I most value about his work are the quiet bits,like the painful silence of a father who knows he has failed his daughter.Seymour also makes the best of all the little morsels of characterization the script offers.She shows us glimpses of this housewife's interior life and,along with Molina,telegraphs how David seduced Jenny's parents as much as he seduced her.

All of this is possible thanks to the way Scherfig shoots actors,valuing the relationship between their bodies in space and the way a person listens.Olivia Williams and Emma Thompson certainly listen well,being on the receiving ends of Mulligan's showiest monologues.Their scenes are some ofAn Education's greatest,both women cutting through Jenny's self-assuredness with a majestically sharp lines.Though neither Williams or Thomspon have made a blip on Oscar's radar since then,they deserved to withThe Ghost WriterandSaving Mr.Banks.

Sally Hawkins has one scene inAn Educationand she makes the most of it.As David's wife,she is the final blow to Jenny's heart and there's delicious brutality in how she uses her children as witless,but effective,props.Hawkins is brilliant and that's only  become more undeniable in the past ten years,amassing two Oscar nominations.Due to SAG's rules,Hawkins wasn't included inAn Education's Outstanding Performance by a Cast nomination.Seymour suffered the same fate as well as Matthew Beard,who turns a rejected boyfriend into a rhapsody of teenage awkwardness.

As we celebrateAn Educationon its 10thanniversary,we invite you to remember its actors,their brilliance and long-lasting careers.Applauses must also be offered to the amazing casting director Lucy Bevan whose work in this film is more than enough to justify the creation of a Best Casting Oscar.

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Reader Comments (3)

My favorite of the 10 Best Picture nominees that year.Mulligan is exquisite and the Screenplay superb.Should have gone 3 for 3 at the Oscars.亚博主页

October 9,2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Should've won the Oscar and generally underrated esp in Wildlife..

October 9,2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Molina desrved a nomination just for the biscuits scene.

October 9,2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

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