At the heart of it is a screenplay by popular author Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “About A Boy”), whose books and film adaptations are lighthearted but still pack a very realistic emotional punch. A similar type story is present somewhere in AN EDUCATION, but the tone is all wrong. I know it’s set in Britain in the 1960’s when cultural norms and societal laws may have been different, but I had a seriously difficult time accepting the basic premise of the movie—a guy in his 30s seducing and dating a 16 year old high school student. (Bonus Ick Factor: Her parents are okay with it because the guy is rich!) Even though, as the title suggests, the film doesn’t ultimately glorify their ungodly union, it does romanticize it in the way it’s portrayed for most of the movie and it’s just really uncomfortable that entire time. (Especially the more intimate scenes—“Can I just see them?” Gross.) The whole affair is so confident, especially with Hornby’s flippant dialogue and penchant for likable characters, that it felt like there was something wrong with me for being bothered by a romance that by today’s standards would end up on Dateline NBC.
Even if the plot doesn’t dissuade you, unfortunately as a film itself, I wasn’t super impressed. I definitely didn’t see why this got a Best Picture nomination over other, better movies last year. Granted, the acting was fantastic (Carey Mulligan deserves every ounce of praise she got for her bold, transformative performance), but besides that there was nothing about AN EDUCATION that really stood out to me. We’ve seen similar coming of age dramas in situation, setting and timeframe done better, not to mention with at least 70% less pedophilia! I feel like I could’ve stomached the first two-thirds of the film had the payoff made it worth it, but the ending was the film’s weakest suit. The resolution with Peter Sarsgaard’s character isn’t satisfying, the lesson learned has clearly been in your face the whole time, and the entire conclusion of the movie (where the act of the title should be taking place) is rushed and simplified in a way that does a serious disservice to everything we sat through before it.
I’ll highlight the performances again, because if there’s a reason to watch AN EDUCATION it’s to see the solid work from leads Mulligan and Sarsgaard, as well as great supporting turns from Alfred Molina, Cara Seymour, Emma Thompson, Olivia Williams and even Bond girl Rosamund Pike. Just be prepared to feel like a creeper afterwards.
Deleted Scenes: Eleven cut segments (about 15 minutes) ranging from more time at Jenny’s school to an alternate ending.
Making Of: A few short but interesting interviews clocking in under 10 minutes.
Walking the Red Carpet: Footage and more interviews from the film’s L.A. premiere, which feels like it should’ve been held in Paris.
Trailers and Previews.
Extra Tidbit: Thankfully Carey Mulligan was actually 22 when she filmed this, not 16.