Thursday, 24 June 2010

The ReEducation of Andrew:…or How I Never Learned to Write a Review

Remember, An Education? Of course you do. Care Mulligan’s coming of age in London from Lone Scherfig that I fell deeply for… I’m still deeply rooted in my affection for An Education even if I never mustered up the time to critically review it (not here, not here, not here not even here). It’s nice to see that “education” fever is still in the air though, I’ve been reading more and more reviews of it and the most recent one struck me as well written (though I disagree with so much). Carson of the very intelligent Are the Hills Going to March Off (how have I never heard of this blog?) gave it quite the tongue lashing a few weeks ago that made me give my kneejerk long-ass comment, which immediately reminded me of what I said after just seeing An Education. I have a feeling that it strikes me so much because it seems like something that I would see happening. No I do not live in Twickenham (or England) and I do not attend (and never have attended) a girls’ school or private school, still it struck me as all very natural and more importantly – personal.
I noted that the opening credits before as particularly jaunty and irreverent (remember this post; I never got around to posting my favourite endings, but all in due time). When I watched it a month ago with some friends and my two sisters a friend of mine who had seen snippets of the middle asked me, “Is this the same film?” I guess the opening credits are misleadingly, but I still applaud Scherfig’s choice. There is only one scene in An Education I’d admit to disliking in particular, and that’s the one just after the credits – not that the cello conversation – the residual snippets of Jenny in class. I do love how Carey sits up to answer about Mr. Rochester (I really don’t like Jane Eyre) but it seems too much like hitting us over the head. Do we have to open with Jenny showing up her schoolmates? Incidentally…that was probably me in high school. I did love English Lit. But this isn’t sounding review-like, is it? I know. An Education has that effect on me.
For the record, I’d like to say that I think Cara Seymour is excellent here, as time goes by I’m wondering if she’s my favourite supporting player in the film (including Pike, Molina, Sarsgaard, Cooper, Thompson and Williams). On that note, how much people are in this movie? It seems as if it’s just about Jenny but the characters exist in their own realm, sans Jenny. It’s not a situation where I don’t buy them as realistic. These persons are all real, and I can imagine them before and after Jenny. Ah yes, but I was speaking of Cara Seymour. She has a knack for winsome facial reactions (like mother, like daughter) and even in that first cello scene that’s all Mulligan vs Molina I can’t help watching her. She’s like a Helen who has taken the highroad…and settled down. That single moment of her having some alone time with Jenny where she scrubs the spot is too short, and really An Education is just too short, I wish we had more time with her. Dare I say – sequel? She’s such an obvious mediator; like at Jenny’s “party” where Graham has his fateful exit, (remember Matthew Beard?) she’s just realistic, with that bland looking sponge cake and all. Yet, she’s not particularly meek in the face of her husband. Of course we all balk at Alfred Molina (unless we’re Vianne and opening a Cholaterrie during Lent, but I digress) but even when she’s following his orders Seymour always has that exasperated look on her face that’s mixed with amusement. Maybe it’s because I’m reading it at the moment but her dedication to her husband strikes me as similar to Linda’s faith in the misguided Willy in Death of A Salesman.
We look so good, and he still hasn't mentioned me.
More than a few people have confessed to being less than impressed with Scherfig’s blandness in direction which is a sentiment I can’t help but be puzzled at. I think of the indulgency of Daniels in Precious and wonder why his indulgence is fine because it’s in-your-face. I don’t doubt, though, Scherfig may do well with a light romance (circa 19th century). I’m no fan of overused close-ups, but she thrives when she has all her actors in a room. Like the first table meeting of the three musketeers and Jenny, or both of Graham’s visits to the Mellor house. She knows who to cut to and when, even if we don’t and gets the reactions that are not at all studied. With expression, I of course turn to Carey because she like making faces. Really, I can’t say that Audrey comparisons strike me…I suppose they do have that same pixie look, but when it comes to expressions she reminds me of the other Hepburn. Not in physicality, per se, but in that way that Kate is termed a self-conscious beauty – isn’t Carey the same? Who knows? Perhaps she’s cold and calculating and is just an excellent pretender…but she definitely pulls the wool over my eyes.
My A-Level papers were better than this review
I suppose I must examine that final “prosaic” monologue of A-Level studying, but I have no issues with the choice. Is it really too much to give Scherfig credit, juxtaposing Jenny’s earlier days of reckless abandonment (almost) against the extreme triteness (ostensibly, at least) of studying? Naturally if I take that route I’ll eventually meet up with the roadblock of the film’s contrasting messages. But I don’t find it worrisome (or even evident). Jenny’s obviously going to be learning from her education with David, and not just those pedestrian ones like being careful with men. Is it too much to take her final monologue seriously? Sure, she seems as wide-eyed and tasteless as all those other girls; but she’s had a taste of the other side. And neither is superior to the other, but Jenny knows who she is. As she makes that visit to Mrs. Stubbs and looks around the room with the placid decorations she realises that, perhaps, that’s all she’d ever need. After all, this is the education of Jenny…not Helen.
There… a thousand words and I still haven’t reviewed it (or talked about the excellence of Dominic Cooper). Tut, tut, tut. My writing teacher would balk at this plethora of words with no structure. I guess I’m just unable to review it....It's still an A for me, though.
Get educated yourself…these bloggers actually knew where they were going with their reviews. I do like reading people's archives...
Andrew (not me)


The Mad Hatter said...

For starters, thank you for including me in the list of EDUCATION reviews at the bottom of the post. Linkage is always appreciated.

With that said, Carson has no clue what he's talking about.

I don't usually "call out" other bloggers, but for someone going on that long and being that wrong needs to be noted.

For starters, he barely mumbles the fact that this film is based on a in it actually happened to someone. is what happens within the film difficult to believe and absurd by a rational 21st centruy mindset? Absolutely. Does that make it impossible?? Hells no.

Carson doesn't know his history well enough to understand the time period that the film is telling the story from. He forgets that generations of female doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs never were because they weren't encouraged to reach for higher goals until as recently as forty years ago.

Prior to that? "Just find a good husband who will take care of you".

He also doesn't realize that the age of majority in England is younger. While the relationship is wildly inappropriate, is wasn't seen as such at the time.

Setting and context are everything where this film is concerned, and carson clearly doesn't understand either one.

(Oh, I should also note, that your understanding of the film is quite good...even if it never got a full-on review).

Yojimbo said...

I didn't like it, either, and found it consider it quite over-rated. I lived through the 60's.

The Mad Hatter said...

@ Yojimbo... Not liking it and presumptively tearing it apart are two different things.

rtm said...

I haven't seen this movie yet so I resisted reading your whole posts. I did caught a trailer for it (was it in the NINE dvd?) and was intrigued by it. It's in my Netflix queue now.

Btw, I like the text at the beginning of this comment box. Funny! :D

Yojimbo_5 said...

Tetch, you are a wise man. But you (and your readers) know that.