Film Review – An Education

I was complaining a few weeks back that we have to wait so long for high quality-“Oscar” type movies. The current state of Fayetteville theaters are not proving me wrong.

The rest of the country got “Precious” this weekend – a film that was number 3 last week while only playing on a select number of theaters. So which theater is “Precious” playing at in Northwest Arkansas? IT’S NOT. What about “A Serious Man,” the new film from the Academy Award-winning Coen Brothers? It’s not in NWA either? This is just the beginning. I fear that we will have to wait until the end of January to see “Nine” or “A Single Man” while the rest of the country is enjoying them.

However, just when I want to bang my head against a wall, our lovely (albeit Smelly) little Fiesta Square 16 goes and surprises me. This week I was shocked to find “An Education” playing there. I couldn’t even find it on their street sign, but alas…Yahoo! said they had it. So Saturday, after some Little Breading, Daniel and I went on down to Fiesta Square and bypassed all those damn Twilight kids and took our seat in the tiny theater showing “An Education.” I can’t complain about the size of the theater, because there were just six other people in the show. Oh well.

Being a bit schooled in the fall releases, I knew that I wasn’t going to make the same mistake that I made last year with “Vicky Christina Barcelona” and skip the theatrical run of the movie. Last year, it was nominated and Penolope Cruz actually won. This year I swore that I wouldn’t turn my back on a gift, if it was present.

Therefore, we truly have a gift to embrace. “An Education” is a possible best picture contender in a year where the short list will be expanded to ten. No, it won’t win…and may not even be nominated. However, the star of the show will be and even stands a chance (a chance) of winning. That star is bound to be this year’s break-out Carey Mulligan. When I came home last night and opened my December Vogue, I see that my idea has already been stolen and they are touting her as the new “IT GIRL.” Damn you Anna Wintour…

“An Education” is a nice, little (just about an hour and a half) movie with a lot to say. It starts in the late fifties, early sixties in a London suburb that hasn’t quite been touched by the swinging sixties movement. This is a pre-Beatles time where everyone is still buttoned up and stubborn. We meet the star, a young (16) girl who is finishing up her schooling and attempting to work her way into Oxford on her father’s wishes…played by a possible nominee, Alfred Molina. That young girl is the “IT GIRL” Carey Mulligan in a performance that is so lovely and so contagious that you truly understand where she is going and why. You could imagine if a lesser actress was stuck with this part…it could be a disaster.

In walks an older (probably like 35) man played by acclaimed actor Peter Skarsgard (you know, Maggie Gyllenhall’s other half). Skarsgard takes an interest in Mulligan and we slowly see them fall into a unique and different kind of relationship. We, as audience members, are swooned over by the older man and truly understand the choices that Mulligan makes. Everything seems to be moving along nicely. Skarsgard invited the girl into a world that she has never experienced. Drinking, clubbing, fine dining, gambling, and of course…love. We begin to understand why a young girl would fall madly in love with his character. He takes her off to Paris (her dream) for a lovely birthday weekend. He takes her off to Oxford for a weekend trip.

However, there are subtle clues that something is not quite right. The way in which Skarsgard makes his fortune is a bit strange. The ease in which he wins over Mulligan’s parents is alarming. Something just seems out of place. THIS IS WHERE I MUST STOP. Daniel turned to me at the end of the movie and said “Good luck reviewing that without giving it all away.” The film goes in a different direction that truly allows Mulligan to get her “education” and evaluate the choices that she has in her life. What I can tell you is that it’s a film about getting an education about getting an education. I know that’s vague…but hey, it’s a good tag line.

The only real complaint about the film is one that Daniel presented…it just sort of ends. I thought that it was a lovely ending to a lovely (and difficult) story. However, I can understand Daniel’s point. The film seems as if it is going to swell to a big ending and a final SCENE but never really does. There is a conventional scene that would have taken place in any American movie involving a showdown of sorts. That never happens in this movie. I think that is fantastic, but I understand why some might feel off-put by the ending.

That being said, the film is scoring high with critics and audiences alike. It is a lovely movie in a month where we are waiting for the big guns. I won’t advise that you pass this one up. Mulligan and probably even Molina are sure to be nominated, and rightly so. The film also sports some great tiny parts by the great Sally Hawkins, and Oscar darling Emma Thompson. I also expect a screenplay nomination. It is truly…that good. Go watch it and try not to be swooned over by its charm, heart, and elegance. It is well worth your time and trip to the little (smelly) Fiesta.


An Education (2009)

Rating: PG-13
Release Date: Oct 9, 2009
Running Time: 100 mins.
Country Of Origin: United Kingdom
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Cara Seymour, Olivia Williams, Matthew Beard, Dominic Cooper, Emma Thompson, Sally Hawkins, Rosamund Pike
Director: Lone Scherfig
Synopsis: In the post-war, pre-Beatles London suburbs, a bright schoolgirl is torn between studying for a place at Oxford and the more exciting alternative offered to her by a charismatic older man. (

Wayne Bell moved to Fayetteville in 2003 for his Masters Degree and you can almost always catch him at Little Bread Co. or Hammontree’s. For more of Wayne’s contributions, visit his author page.