Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Plan: Two down...five more to go

Let me explain. No...let me sum up:

I have decided to see these seven films before the Academy Awards broadcast on Sunday night, March 7 -

☐ An Education

☐ Avatar

☐ The Blind Side

Crazy Heart [I saw this one Saturday night - click the link for my review]

☐ District 9

☐ The Hurt Locker

☐ The Last Station

Sunday night, I saw...

An Education - (Jim Styro's mini-review)

Do you ever have those moments when you feel that you are viewing life through a particular prism where all of the common elements in things stand out very distinctly and you see how everything seems interrelated - and its not because you're on drugs or anything - but the patterns in events and people and things just seem to blend together in a rich tapestry that seems utterly clear to you...?

Well, even if you don't - there are some common elements between the films Crazy Heart and An Education which, despite significant differences in setting, style and point of view, stand out clearly - especially when having watched the movies on back-to-back evenings. Chief among these is the notion of "Romance gone wrong" - the feeling that the relationship being portrayed cannot (perhaps, should not) last. In Crazy Heart, we see this played out primarily from the point of view of a 60+ year-old man; in An Education, our protagonist is a 16-year-old (soon to be 17) girl, Jenny. In Crazy Heart, the romantic relationship seems like it may be a last chance at redemption for our hero; in An Education, it is clearly a first love - with the potential to deliver Jenny from (what she views as) the stifling environs of 1961 Great Britain*.

The movie is filled with wonderful performances from Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson (in a small but important role) - to mention only a few - but most impressive is Carey Mulligan as Jenny. The success of the entire film rests on her ability to strike the right balance between the bliss of youthful naivete and the single-mindedness of an adolescent mind certain that she is not understood by those around her, that the future being planned for her is a trap. Her performance seems so natural that we are drawn on her emotional roller-coaster ride (or, should I say, helter skelter?). I found the movie quite moving - and this is due in large part to Mulligan's performance.

Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard (Garden State & Kinsey), who plays David, the older man that wants to expose Jenny to the finer things in life, make an attractive couple - and the movie does a great job of capturing the look and feel of Britain and Europe in the early 60's - like Breakfast at Tiffany's set in London or Paris. But, like Crazy Heart, though you think you know where the film is going (and may even be right about its final destination) the path it takes will likely hold at least a few surprises.

I know it seems like I'm easy (though I'm not cheap) - but I have to say:
An Education is one class I think you'll be glad you sat through.

Take care.

* Setting the film in that year may have simply been staying true to the original article, written by Lynn Barber, upon which the film is based. But it seems entirely fitting - even necessary - that the story take place in a pre-Beatles England - before the Fab Four began to thaw Britain out of its post-World War 2 malaise - and give the Baby Boom its boom.

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