Friday, February 26, 2010

An Education

"'Action is character', our English teacher says. I think it means that if we never did anything, we wouldn't be anybody. And I never did anything before I met you."

An Education, as the title hints at, is an unabashed bildungsroman(!) featuring a girl named Jenny who is seduced in more ways than one by a man named David. Jenny is a schoolgirl, who is young enough to be called "a schoolgirl". As for David, his age is not mentioned, but the actor portraying him is 38. In any case there is a rule of thumb for these things and these two are well out of each other's range.

David is smooth talking, impossibly charming, even a bit criminal, and it's no surprise that Jenny so willingly gives in to his magnetism. Her parents are the conservative but sensible type that find no place for the silly thoughts of little girls. They want her to study hard and get into Oxford University, and to find success in life the way they know how. David represents an exciting quick escape into a seemingly much larger world.

The title of the movie is An Education, and Jenny is presented with the choice between two distinct paths of it. The long haul of an Oxford education, or David's life of carefree lollygagging.

In the end I'm left with the feeling that the movie doesn't quite come full circle, and doesn't fully answer the questions it poses. Jenny argues passionately that she's only truly experiencing life for the first time thanks to David, freed from the mundanity of the conventional path. And she makes a convincing argument! But then we're blindsided by a twist that turns everything around and seems to nullify all the lessons that came before it, or at least bring them down to earth. I may be missing the point entirely. Or maybe the point is that the point isn't as clean cut as you'd expect.

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