Iím willing to say I have a pretty good base of knowledge. Books will help with that. Films as well, on occasion. Thereís often some historical item that Iíll see missing in a film, or something represented thatís just not right. I get a kick out of catching the errors made by others, Hollywood professionals, in major releases.
But you canít know everything. Itís just not possible. You canít read entire oeurves, and not actually live. So some things may pass on by, though you might be able to catch up with them at some point in time.
Lynn Barber is one of those people who has lived one of those lives that just wasnít known to me. Until the release of her memoir in film form, An Education. Barber, you see, is British. So thatís a first strike. And she was born during WWII, a generation removed from me. And she writes about a teenage girlís coming of age in and around London before the Beatles and the British invasion took the world by stage. A different time, a quiet time, a time oft forgotten, not much discussed, or even celebrated. So we can understand why itís been passed, so far. Really, who the hell know anything about being a 16 year old girl in suburban London in 1960, unless you were a 16 year old girl in or around London at that time.
But what we have with this delightful film, which ends predictably, but not without a revealing journey, and a wonderful story, is a welcome addition to the many coming of age tales that youth have experienced in countries and times over the past century.
Delicious performances, ironically by the male lead, Pater Sarsgaard, as the smoothly lecherous David Goldman, and Alfred Molina, as the father of our central character, Jenny, take this film beyond the expected and into the celebrated. And Carey Mulligan, as Jenny, balances the challenge of presenting youth and callowness with the sophistication that comes from an early realization of dreams.
Just about everything in this film is predictable. We know that going in. The solicitation, the pursuit, the cultivation, the sustenance. All of these situations are well presented, well set, and staged in such a presumably practical way that we each see the faith that was provided by Jenny and her family in this relationship. But it works. Thereís no artifice here. We all know whatís building, whatís coming, and how it is resolved.
As with all good stories, the devil is in the details. And those details are well presented in moments dotted throughout this period piece, one that reminds us of the provincialism of the time, the limits that were placed on women and girls in that era, and the wanton prejudices that sustained society before the lid was blown off by rock and roll.
As with all good stories, and stories well told, thereís a universality that breaks down the existing barriers, and commands our interest, even our attention. Despite a very weak series of final scenes, and an anti-climactic conclusion, An Education invites us to watch and learn from the experience of a girl wise beyond her years, learning and living and loving in ways teens have for years, but not always with the desired results.