Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why "An Education" deserves to win; an argument

A continuing series of brief reflections about the Best Picture nominees


It's time to pay more attention to the early 1960s. The 50s have always been a stable of myth, a time of radical changes solidified through conformist media. The 60s, starting with JFK's election, broke that idea open. In no other film has this idea been so acutely explored recently than in "An Education." It's a small, quiet film that surges with wit and structure. It gets by on class.

But it has a lot to say. As protagonist Jenny pleas during the end, "it's not about just educating us anymore; you have to tell us WHY you're doing it." She is the progressive child, a woman in bloom who must reconcile the changing tides around her. And in young Carey Mulligan, the film finds its vehicle, an actress so subtle and so commanding she seems to make all aspects of the frame gravitate towards her.

Danish director Lone Scherfig makes the film about juxtaposition and emergence. It's about change and growth, but also realization and self-discovery. Littered through the film are sublime supporting turns, magnificent framings and beautiful lighting, and an overall tempo and mood that manages to strategically balance comedy and drama with fresh zeal.

Films are always looking back in time, but "An Education" gives us a thoroughly realized look at emerging British social structures, of altered moralities and a culture trying to reconcile with itself. It has anxiety on the mind, but also hope. Perhaps this fascination with the period that more filmmakers are giving over to is a sign that we want to look at the shifting 60s from the perspective of our world that seems to be struggling with its own new tensions and possibilities. If that be the case, "An Education" serves as a remarkable study in how to learn how to thrive in the world. Whether it's Jenny's story, or one that represents a broader cultural education, it's classy filmmaking at its finest.

For Your Consideration - An Education

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