July 14, 2010

Justify My Netflix: An Education

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

An Education

Today's movie: An Education, 2009 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this was one of the sleeper hits of last year's Oscar season, a lightly fictionalized memoir by British journalist Lynn Barber (and adapted for the screen by no less than Nick Hornby), on the ways she both positively and negatively blossomed into womanhood in swinging early-'60s London under the tutelage of a charming but mysterious older man.

The reality: Oh, sheesh, this movie is so charming and wonderful that I barely know where to begin. Chalk it up to three main factors, I guess, a sort of perfect storm that one always loves to see in a well-done movie: it features very engaging and complex characters (our 16-year-old heroine turns out to be a lot more mature than the twenty/thirty-something con man who takes her under his wing, even as the whole mess in the first place is caused by her teenage frustrations over living a boring, provincial life); which is then combined with an incredibly smart and subtle script by Hornby (or, mostly subtle; the end unfortunately gets just a little too preachy, to the point where I kept waiting for the female characters to suddenly shout "GIRL POWER!" and break into song); which is then combined with a legitimately extraordinary performance by female lead Carey Mulligan, proving that she really did deserve that surprise Oscar nomination she received, as well as the equally surprise nominations for Best Screenplay and even Best Picture. (By the way, fans of BBC's "Masterpiece" will already be familiar with Mulligan; in just the last five years, she's been in their productions of Bleak House, Northanger Abbey and Agatha Christie's Marple, not to mention such other British television shows as The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard and Doctor Who.) I'm not sure it's even possible to dislike this movie, especially when you finally add its spot-on early-'60s costuming and set design, and it comes highly recommended today to just about everyone out there, including those who don't normally like award-winning character dramas.

Strangest piece of trivia: After 15 years of breakout smaller roles, this was the first time in Peter Sarsgaard's career that he received top billing.

Worth your time? Yes

Filed by Jason Pettus at 2:24 PM, July 14, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |