An Education

The Nominations:

  • Actress in a Leading Role
  • Best Picture
  • Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

The Black-and-White:

A review by SpacedCowboy

“An Education” was the first movie I walked out on in years. “An Education” is the most horrific movie I have seen for a long, long, long time. It is a well-acted, well-produced movie, but it is a story that  is told with the same duplicity as “Hitler and the Nazi Youth Enjoy Summer Vacation at Dachau”. It should never be celebrated.

Here’s the movie synopsis from

In the early 1960’s, sixteen year old Jenny Mellor lives with her parents in the London suburb of Twickenham. On her father’s wishes, everything that Jenny does is in the sole pursuit of being accepted into Oxford, as he wants her to have a better life than he. Jenny is bright, pretty, hard working but also naturally gifted. The only problems her father may perceive in her life is her issue with learning Latin, and her dating a boy named Graham, who is nice but socially awkward. Jenny’s life changes after she meets David Goldman, a man over twice her age. David goes out of his way to show Jenny and her family that his interest in her is not improper and that he wants solely to expose her to cultural activities which she enjoys. Jenny quickly gets accustomed to the life to which David and his constant companions, Danny and Helen, have shown her, and Jenny and David’s relationship does move into becoming a romantic one. However, Jenny slowly learns more about David, and by association Danny and Helen, and specifically how they make their money. Jenny has to decide if what she learns about them and leading such a life is worth forgoing her plans of higher eduction at Oxford.

I don’t want to waste too many electrons on reviewing this movie, so let me attempt to be concise.

The good: the movie was well-shot, and extremely well-acted. Kudos to Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard and Alfred Molina in particular. They gave honest, powerful performances, with complete integrity to the script.

The horrific: this is a movie glorifying rape. Here is my faux-plot synopsis, should I be asked to review this movie for, e.g.,  Rolling Stone:

Tired of high school, and life in the suburbs, a precious young girl gets raped. A 30+ year old married, serial rapist,  and an adorable hunk of a man (wonderfully captured by Peter Sarsgaard) repeatedly rapes her. A wonderful adventure ensues! Paris! Music! Enlightenment! Our enlightened heroine  is “wise beyond her years” – she enjoys rape like few other minors do. And isn’t that what everyone is looking for in a 16 year old girl?

And our devilishly charming anti-hero (serial rapist and adulterer that he may be), provides a wonderful, simple, charming life-lesson that all of the  family can enjoy! He asks us: does a child like your smile? Can she spell big words? Yes???? Well then the laws of all civilized nations apply not to you! I’ll have sex with her, and help her prepare for her next big adventure – rape at college!

In the interest of full disclosure, Rolling Stone (and most everyone else) disagrees. Here is the RS take:

Schoolgirl Jenny is 16 and a virgin. Sophisticated David is twice her age and ready to pounce. The time is 1961. The place is England just before it learned to swing. So begins An Education; a quiet miracle of a movie that quickly disabuses you of the idea that you’ve seen it all before.

An Education is remarkable for the traps it doesn’t fall into. Jenny, for all her naive impulses, isn’t a victim. She thrills to the concerts, jazz clubs and chic restaurants on David’s merry-go-round. She doesn’t see anything devious in David or his pals, dashing Danny (Dominic Cooper) and blond goddess Helen (Rosamund Pike). They are everything glamorous that’s been out of her reach. At school, Jenny scandalizes the headmistress (an acid-tongued Emma Thompson) and presents David as a viable alternative to Oxford. It’s a teacher (Olivia Williams) who pulls her up short: “You can do anything, Jenny, you’re clever and pretty. Is your boyfriend interested in the clever Jenny?”

And this is exactly why this is the most dangerous movie I’ve seen for a long, long time. The sugar-pill we’re given is that it’s OK to rape a 16 year old girl, as long as she is sufficiently mature to understand and accept being raped, and will eventually chalk it up to a valuable part of growing up.

What 16 year old is ever ready and able to accept being raped? Ever? In any circumstance? When is rape a way to help a young girl gain wisdom and insight into the meaning of life? Ever? In any circumstance?


For the Academy:

  • Writing (adapted screenplay) nomination: should be burned. Add it to the pile of books this movie implicitly endorses burning.
  • Actress in a leading role: Carey Mulligan gave an honest, thoughtful and engaging performance. She  clearly is a very talented actress and her performance was completely faithful to the material she had.  For the best actress Oscar: perhaps she deserves the nod, if for no other reason that  somehow this movie has completely charmed a nation that claims to be dedicated to protecting our children from rape. Her endearing performance somehow made rape an educational, engaging and charming experience.
  • Best picture: …

ps. note to Nick Hornby: what the hell happened, buddy? “High Fidelity” was a minor opus. Was this to be your “Catcher in the Rye”? If so, friend, you need to go back to school (and I hope you don’t meet any older men while you are there… whole other book).

One Response to An Education

  1. […] Added reviews today for the horrific rape-movie “An Education“, and the mediocre film “The Princess and the […]

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