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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Lone Scherfig
Cast:
Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Emma Thompson, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams
Writing Credits:
Lynn Barber (memoir), Nick Hornby

Synopsis:
From acclaimed writer Nick Hornby (About A Boy, High Fidelity) comes this inspired coming-of-age film Rolling Stone magazine calls "a miracle of a movie." When Jenny (Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Carey Mulligan), a bright young school girl who longs for adulthood, meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), a dashing older man, he introduces her to his vibrant world of glamorous friends, chic jazz clubs and her own sexual awakening. Will she let this affair ruin her dreams of attending Oxford, as her headmistress (Emma Thompson) fears? This captivating film sparkles with the wit, charm and style of 1960s Britain.

Box Office:
Budget
£4.500 million.
Opening Weekend
$244.763 thousand on 19 screens.
Domestic Gross
$12.440 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $38.96
Release Date: 3/30/2010

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Lone Scherfig and Actors Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard
• “The Making of An Education” Featurette
• “Walking the Red Carpet” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Trailer
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


An Education [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 28, 2010)

Because the Academy expanded to 10 movies for the 2010 Best Picture category, it becomes intriguing to consider which five would’ve made the cut under the old rules. Clearly winner The Hurt Locker would’ve been there, and I’m pretty sure Avatar, Precious and Up in the Air would’ve also gotten into the top five.

So what would’ve been the final nominee? I’d guess Inglourious Basterds, but with its Coen brothers pedigree, a good case could be made for A Serious Man.

Or for An Education, as well. Of all the 10 Best Picture nominees, it provides the most traditional example of “Oscar bait”: it’s a dramatic period piece created under British auspices. If that’s not Oscar gold, I don’t know what is!

An Education takes us to London circa 1961. We meet Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a teen schoolgirl whose father Jack (Alfred Molina) pushes her to get into Oxford. He emphasizes a strict course, against which Jenny plans to rebel – albeit somewhat mildly - when she goes away to school.

As she walks home in a downpour, 30-something David (Peter Sarsgaard) offers to give Jenny a lift. He then sends her flowers to wish her luck before a concert performance, and he eventually asks her on a date. Despite the substantial age difference – and her father’s opposition - Jenny decides to go out with David. This launches a relationship that helps expand her horizons in many ways.

Possibly the biggest surprise found in Education comes from its treatment of David. In this day and age, it’s tough to find a movie that depicts an older man who pursues a teen girl as anything other than a perv, a predator or both. Making Jenny almost college-age probably helps some – she’s no 12-year-old Lolita – but the film still takes on dicey territory.

And makes almost nothing out of it. This is refreshing in some ways but strange in others. While a skeezy side to David eventually emerges, we do sense he genuinely cares for Jenny beyond a superficial level, and the flick views him in a positive manner until its final act.

Which makes his entry into Jenny’s world more understandable, but it still seems a bit crazy that her parents so readily embrace David. Yeah, 1961 was a radically different era, but I still find it tough to imagine that her traditional father would so happily allow her to hook up with a substantially older guy. Yes, we see that Jack wants nothing more than to see Jenny married off, but come on – he must have some objections to the sight of his daughter with a guy potentially old enough to be her dad.

In a way, Education takes on a subtle “women know best” vibe. David and Jack steer Jenny the wrong way, but her mother (Cara Seymour) seems to sense something’s amiss – as demonstrated by the quiet way she encourages Jenny to date a schoolboy – and the buttoned-up women at her school encourage her to stick with education and avoid romantic entanglements.

I appreciate the understated way in which Education follows this path, as it easily could’ve taken the propaganda route ala something like the awful Mona Lisa Smile did with some similar themes. The flick does give us a fairly traditional “coming of age” story, with the inevitable ups and downs – it’s not a shock when David turns out the be something less ideal than we believe – but it doesn’t beat us over the head with its themes.

The film’s subtlety can be a strength and a weakness. On one hand, I like the fact it doesn’t shove its ideas in our face, as that shows respect for the viewer. On the other hand, however, the film can seem a bit lifeless. While Jenny goes through these intoxicating, magical experiences that change her life, it all comes across as a bit… boring.

Plenty happens to Jenny through the film, but it rarely makes much of a dent on the viewer. When we see her go to Paris, we sense the trip in a mildly romantic way, but the movie doesn’t convey the excitement that would accompany a young girl’s first big weekend in that legendary city. For all the emotion the montage conveys, she could be wandering around a mall.

Perhaps that statement exaggerates the movie’s lack of broad emotion, but it remains my impression. To be sure, the characters convey feelings, and if a story wants to err, I’d prefer that it err on the side of understatement; it’s not like I want Jenny to start throwing vases or anything. I’d just like to get a bit more inside her head and view the circumstances with a little more emotion; the movie fails to give us anything particularly dynamic.

Mulligan earned an Oscar nomination for her turn here, and I can’t say she didn’t deserve it. Indeed, while I’d still probably would’ve gone with Meryl Streep’s terrific work as Julia Child, I think Mulligan would’ve earned the trophy above eventual winner Sandra Bullock. That’s partially a reflection of the characters as written, as Jenny seems much better realized than Blind Side’s cartoony Leigh Anne, but it also comes from the greater depth Mulligan brings to her part. (Bullock’s a charmer, but I’m not convinced she’s much better than average as an actor.)

Even hamstrung by the film’s general emotional restraint, Mulligan manages to deliver good depth in Jenny. The character doesn’t take a huge journey, largely because she’s already pretty mature when we meet her. At the start, Jenny’s reasonably sophisticated and educated, so it’s not like David does a Henry Higgins on her. Before she meets David, she does lead a provincial life, but she understands and desires things outside of her London suburb, so David doesn’t have to literally expose her to the world.

This means Jenny’s emotional journey becomes more significant than her educational life, and that’s where Mulligan excels. As noted, the film doesn’t allow her any broad demonstrations of feelings – a single tear is about as histrionic as she gets – so Mulligan needs to depict her character’s development internally. She does this well and allows us to sense Jenny’s emotions without obvious displays.

As David, Sarsgaard seems good, though the accent eludes him somewhat. For reasons I’ve never quite understood, Brits tend to better adopt American accents than the other way around, and Sarsgaard’s vocal intonations never make me forget his nationality. However, he does show us David’s likability; I still don’t entirely buy the notion that Jenny’s dad so readily accepts him, but Sarsgaard’s charm helps sell the concept.

Though she gets little to do, I really like Rosamund Pike’s turn as dim-witted Helen, the girlfriend of David’s pal/business partner Jack (Dominic Cooper). Pike doesn’t make Helen a complete moron, and she speaks some unpretentious truth at times, such as when she asks why Jenny uses various French phrases instead of English. (Youthful pretentiousness is my pick.) Although she avoids the usual “dumb blonde” stereotypes, Pike delivers a low-key vapidity that makes Helen oddly engaging. With all these aspiring sophisticates, it’s amusing to see someone who’s really just interested in fun.

Ultimately, I view An Education as a classy coming of age tale. However, outside of its unusual viewpoint in terms of a relationship between a 30-something man and 16-year-old girl, it’s not one that breaks any particular new ground. The flick provides a worthwhile take on its subject but it seems so restrained that it occasionally threatens to lose the viewer’s interest.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

An Education appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. While not the most dynamic Blu-ray I’ve seen, the image satisfied.

For the most part, sharpness appeared strong. However, fine detail was slightly lacking in some wide shots. Although these were minor instances, they meant that the delineation wasn’t quite as consistent as I’d like. I noticed no issues with shimmering or jagged edges, and edge haloes were minor at worst. Source flaws remained absent.

As one might expect from a period flick like this, Education provided a subdued palette. Colors tended toward a desaturated bent, but they seemed clear and well-developed within those constraints. Blacks showed good depth and darkness, while shadows were solid. I didn’t think highly enough of the image to merit “A”-level consideration, but I felt pleased with what I saw.

Given the film’s character scope, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of An Education didn’t boast a great deal of dynamic material. Nonetheless, it had its moments. The thunderstorm during which Jenny and David met offered nice power, and other elements – jazz clubs, a dog track - opened up the environment in a satisfying way. There wasn’t much to stand out, but the track did what it needed to do.

Audio quality was quite good. Speech was natural and concise, as the lines lacked noticeable concerns. Music was a strong aspect of the mix. The movie featured lots of different musical performances, and these demonstrated solid heft and clarity. Effects didn’t have a ton to do, but they were full and clear; the occasional louder elements showed positive punch as well. While nothing here impressed a ton, the track still was good enough for a “B-“.

Among the extras, we locate an audio commentary from director Lone Scherfig and actors Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific chat about sets and locations, period details, cast, characters and performances, music, deleted scenes, and some other production areas.

I had high hopes for this commentary, but it ends up as a bit of a snoozer. Much of the track seems slow and pedestrian, without a lot of depth to aid it. While it does get more satisfying in its second half and has good moments – I especially like Sarsgaard’s thoughts about the characters – the commentary remains mediocre overall.

11 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 16 minutes, 12 seconds. Most of these focus on Jenny’s life after her expulsion from school. These are interesting to see, but they probably were good cuts since they’d have slowed down the story as it moved toward its finale.

We also find two featurettes. The Making of An Education runs eight minutes, 59 seconds and provides notes from Scherfig, Sarsgaard, Mulligan, writer Nick Hornby, producers Amanda Posey and Finola Dwyer, author Lynn Barber, production designer Andrew McAlpine, and actors Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson, Dominic Cooper and Alfred Molina. The show looks at story and characters, cast and performances, and Scherfig’s impact on the production. Though presented in a flat manner, the program doesn’t manage to produce much good information. We find a general overview of the film, lots of praise and little else.

Walking the Red Carpet goes for eight minutes, 25 seconds and shows Scherfig, Dwyer, Mulligan, Cooper, Williams, Sarsgaard, and actor Cheryl Hines. They offer banal comments about the film outside its Hollywood premiere. Yawn.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Did You Hear About the Morgans?, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and Chloe. Under Previews, we also find promos for It Might Get Loud, Coco Before Chanel, Whatever Works, The Class, Married Life, The Jane Austen Book Club and Michael Jackson’s This Is It. In addition, the platter provides the trailer for An Education.

While most films about older men who pursue teen girls for romantic means take a dark viewpoint, An Education tends to treat the subject in a less ominous manner. Indeed, the age situation rarely becomes a factor, which I see as both refreshing and unrealistic. I’m glad the flick doesn’t take the usual perv/predator path, but it devotes too little time to the likely controversies.

In another contrast, An Education boasts its subtlety as both a strength and a weakness. I appreciate its lack of hamfisted qualities but think it could display more vivid emotion at times. Still, some good performances help compensate for the dull patches. The Blu-ray offers very nice picture, satisfactory sound, and a pretty mediocre set of supplements. An Education isn’t the most absorbing coming of age tale I’ve seen, but it provides a reasonably interesting view.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main