26 October 2009

Review: An Education

Next on my list, after A Serious Man, is another articularly registered film: Lone Scherfig's An Education: a film that (unlike its predecessor) just radiates outward, from within its protagonist (i. e., the effortlessly quirky and beautiful Jenny, played to a T T T by filmic-debutante Carey Mulligan). Ms. Mulligan, who, as so many other critics and bloggers alike have already waxed on, delivers a leading performance of towering virtues, perforce (i. e., for the film-world's already recommendations) will not receive praise here, but for briefly sharing her virtuous splendor with her now twice co-player Rosamund Pike. The two, who previously appeared together as sisters in Joe Wright's delightful Pride & Prejudice (2005), take the best of their parts and materialize them beautifully, in the most subtle of ways, to together almost alone bear the weighty load of this naturally ambitious British film: a nostalgic 'adolescenza' that aims to find the new in the old and worn folds of those reminiscent tropes.

And find that new this film does - rather miraculously and all at once - in its severe and complete dedication to putting forth earnestly and unscrupulously - and succinctly to boot! - the sticky truth of education in the world to students, ruly and not, the world over by the voice of its heroine, the precocious mint-jane. A product of her lattice-worked world of tight British citations and head-down, through-the-rain applications, the girl, disillusioned by her past, seeks - of proper course - to substitute encomia for those citations and bravura for those applications and - too, of due course - later, after following such airy substitutions off the edge, recognizes how with them alone she cannot fly, with them alone she falls. Yet, what mints her fresh, different from so many other girls, is that, after such a recognition, she alone can vocalize (with ardent self-awareness and expansive receipt) the finer points of the lesson that she has just been so hard-pressed to learn, a lesson which far more often than not needs to be lived - not merely expressed - to be properly captured and duly understood.

Yet perhaps a vicarious education of that lived sort is exactly the larger film's gift: By deftly allowing its viewers to not only ride but also play the course of the leading actress' maturative "U" (i. e., the figurative shape that conforms with such a character's arc, descending from one side of an ideological cravass in order to ascend to the other), Ms. Scherfig's film allows its viewers to be educated, along with the screenplay's Jenny, and suffer the emotional rise and fall of the lesson as dearly as if it were their own - a feat, the purpose of didactic-typed film-making the canon over.

Still the film isn't all roses and baubles. In particular, its last 30 seconds were desperately redundant, all too transparently "revealing" a point made so completely clearly by Ms. Mulligan's on-the-staircase expression that immediately precedes them. An editorial flub of such a nature is to me a dramatic blow for which I have no choice but to reconsider the level of intelligence and actual planning that went into constructing the entire work, and here such reconsideration demotes An Education, an otherwise enchanting if occasionally flaccidly written film, to a:

Grade: B+, almost.

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