Review: An Education DVD

STUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Lone Scherfig | STARS: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson
RELEASE DATE: 3/30/2010 | PRICE: DVD $28.96, Blu-ray $38.96
BONUSES: commentary, deleted scenes, two featurettes
SPECS: PG-13 | 100 min. | Romance drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and French subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Carey Mulligan (The Greatest), a 24-year-old British actress, came from obscurity to an Academy Award nomination for her tour-de-force performance in the involving, well-written drama An Education.

Set in Twickingham, a suburb of London in 1961, the film stars Mulligan as Jenny, a goody two-shoes private school girl with aspirations of attending Oxford. She plays cello and is good with her studies, but longs for a more exciting life—in Paris, perhaps—than the path mapped out for her. She finds refuge under the tutelage—and, eventually, in the arms of—David (Peter Sarsgaard, Knight and Day)—a Jewish sophisticate in his 30s who, along with his free-wheeling, closest friends (Dominic Cooper of Tamara Drewe, Rosamund Pike of Made in Dagenham) shows Jenny a world of art, drinking, jazz, and fancy cigarettes. Eventually, he also teaches Jenny about sex and heartbreak.

This is a fairly simple story, based on a bookby Lynn Barber and expertly adapted by novelist Nick Hornby (About a Boy), that exceeds its familiar roots thanks to Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig’s masterful realization of its time and place and sublime across-the-board work by its top-notch cast.

Mulligan has the difficult task of keeping her sunny disposition and resiliency up throughout despite the forces that rail against her (including socially conscious father Alfred Molina of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and projecting a sense of awkwardness, adventurousness and desire. And Sarsgaard proves once again he is one of the most chameleon-like character actors working, delivering a perfect British accent this time out, while everyone else is perfectly cast.

Unfortunately, An Education falters towards its finale, reaching its conclusion in a rushed manner after a surprising revelation about a lead character. It also rings up questions about anti-semitism that it never fully delves into and answers. But for a seemingly small scale coming-of-age film that tackles big, emotional themes, An Education is an intimate charmer with a tough shell around it.

Although the movie is the highlight, the DVD is packed with special features.

 

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.