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Cinema Signal: Not quite a green light but has elements of strong appeal for a limited audience.

Michael Jackson:
The Interviews
Vol. 2 (2009)
. "An Education"

The education depicted in this coming-of-age drama, set in 1961 London, is brought about by an older man seducing a teenage girl, not only with the full knowledge of the girl's parents, but with their collaboration. The challenge for the actors involved is making it credible.

Forty-two year old suitor David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard, 38) is wealthy and lives large, enjoying the comforts and attractions of high style. Needing a pretty lady at his side, he meets Jenny (Carey Mulligan, "Public Enemies") one rainy day as she's plodding home from school, lugging her cello. With charm and elegant cleverness, he manages to get her instrument into his car and, then, the high school musician herself, creating the opportunity to give her a picture of his social status and desire to share it.

The girl is, of course, hooked but, so far, it's only the things dreams are made of. At sixteen, she can't simply go running off with the man. Ah, but David seems to know where people's vulnerabilities are, and he introduces himself to Jenny's parents, Jack (Alfred Molina) and Majorie (Cara Seymour).

What he has to offer their daughter is craftily unstated, left strictly to a subtext that the couple have little problem in reading. It's abundantly clear that he represents a substantial oportunity for their monetary circumstances. The mere appearance of the man says quality and means. His cool and laid-back demeanor soothes any lingering doubt about his trustworthiness, the question of which is the first half of the movie's source of tension.

The parents find him as irresistible as their daughter does, though obviously for different reasons. He and Jenny are allowed to pursue their romance with cooperation from home.

To be fair, David isn't pushy. He's generous and patient with his new (and latest) ward, proving that the trust in him hasn't been misplaced. But, now we come to other matters, such as the nature of his life and work.

It soon comes to light that David and his partners are supporting their high style with acts that cross the line of legal acceptability. When she becomes an unwitting part of it, Jenny is greatly discomfited. Seduced by the life style she's now enjoying, with the promise of a much brighter future than she otherwise could have counted on, she's loathe to sacrifice it despite the moral ambiguity in which she's placed. The drama now takes us beyond the simplicity of underage seduction, and Jenny is receiving a deeper education than she bargained for.

Ironically, David's matter-of-fact inclusion of Jenny into his tawdry enterprise indicates a rather fullsome sense of sharing. Does it not mean she's part of his life and there to stay? Isn't that better than his hiding a secret? But, what secret is he not sharing?

Mulligan, who of course occupies the absolute center--both emotional and physical--of the drama, is capable of an impressive duality in appearance, first as a giggly high schooler in class uniform and, later, elegant and assured as she's coifed and dressed in the trappings of the privileged. Though her 24 years makes the teenage role-playing less than convincing, it's a breakout performance that supersedes the need for suspension of disbelief. Saarsgard, well cast for his charm and subtlety, is solid in his portrayal and dramatic support.

Molina is the key, however, to make it all work in a credible way, and he's superb in carrying out the mission. He needs to fulfill the author's concept of what a greedy parent will do to relieve financial pressures--that he would go so far as to accept a societal taboo. As the father, it has to appear organic to the man that he will promote what other interested characters, such as the school headmistress (Emma Thompson), rail royally (and justifiably) against.

Director Lone Scherfig well understood the moral tradeoffs contained in screenwriter Nick Hornby's adaptation from a memoir by Lynn Barger and she transmits lessons of morality and irony in a well cast and produced ensemble piece.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
Well written
I've seen the movie and agree with the review
Site rating: 8

I thought the movie very good. Lot's of turns and sending you in a direction differing where you end up later. Also some moral searching for many of the characters.

                                                           ~~ Brad Wimmer 
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There was no need for the antisemitism. It did nothing to add to the movie & only caused distress. There's enough antisemitism in this world, we don't need any more.

                                                           ~~ Sydelle K. 
[Ed. note: Huh? Is this visitor downgrading the review and the site because of something in the movie that's not even mentioned in the review?] Well written
This review will influence me to recommend and get my local newspaper to hire this reviewer
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Site rating: 9

                                                           ~~ Nony M. 

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Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard
Part of the education.

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