Wednesday, November 17, 2010

An Education

Lone Scherfig, 2009 (9.0*)

Sundance Audience Award
Carey Mulligan
gives a star-making and Oscar®-nominated performance in this brilliant coming-of-age British romance from Danish director Lone Scherfig. She plays Jenny, a 16-yr old, middle-class honor student, at a prep school for Oxford in 1961 who begins a romance when a thirty-ish man, Peter Sarsgaard (as David), gives her a ride home from school in the rain to 'protect her cello'.

What follows is a very gentle, slowly-paced romance during which David is able to charm his way into her life and show her how 'the other half' lives, attending art auctions, expensive dinners, and real estate sales.

Her best teacher, superbly played as usual by unheralded Olivia Williams, (star of many BBC classics, and the hilarious comedy In The Loop) and her principal, in this case former Oscar®-winner Emma Thompson, are both convinced she is throwing her education and her future away. Meanwhile, her parents, with Alfred Molina terrific as her dad, showing a previously unseen vulnerable (yet still humorous) side, are a little more accepting while becoming friends with David themselves.

For me, this is art at its finest - we see the gradual character growth in Mulligan's face, and don't need dialogue or events to hammer home the point that she is transforming from girl to woman in a few weeks. Lone Scherfig has done a typically understated and brilliant piece of Danish film directing (fellow director Susanne Bier is one of the world's best) that shows romance in a romantic, non-prurient and positive setting, letting the story and character development evolve seemingly on their own. This is all too rare in the last half century.

As proof, An Education was nominated for the best picture Oscar®, as well as screenplay (Nick Hornby brilliantly adapted his own novel), and best actress for Carey Mulligan. She won the BAFTA, the only award it won there out of 8 nominations (including film and British film), and 11 other best actress awards worldwide, many from critics. Overall, it won 15 awards out of 63 nominations, including the Sundance Audience Award.

Director Lone Scherig has 25 wins overall out of 39 nominations, most for Italian For Beginners (2000). Not bad for any director, and she's a Danish woman! I keep telling you, they're way ahead of us..


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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