AN EDUCATION (Lone Scherfig, 2009)

Based on British journalist Lynn Barber’s memoir, which Nick Hornby (About a Boy, 2002) has adapted, An Education centers on 16-year-old Jenny Mellor, whose involvement with charming David Goldman, about twice her age, beginning in 1961 introduces her to a whirl of sophistication, fancy dinners and fine French movies that threatens to divert her from a rendezvous with Oxford University. Goldman, who is Jewish (he mentions this the first time that they meet, and Jenny’s father and headmistress each take up the topic in due course), charms Jenny’s parents as well—especially her father, who believes David when, telling one of his series of lies, remarks that he also went to Oxford and is planning to visit there his medieval literature guide, C. S. Lewis (by which time Lewis was at Cambridge): might Jenny come along?
     Lone Scherfig, the lone woman among the Dogme 95ers, directed this regrettable film that has drawn ungrounded charges of anti-Semitism, perhaps the ploy of its producers to generate whatever kind of talk about it they could. It is a plodding period-piece, the sort of thing one suffers through on Masterpiece Theater. It is a vapid, sanctimonious coming-of-age chronicle. Scherfig perhaps should stick to Denmark, including a Danish tourists’ foray into Italy (Italian for Beginners, 2000). At least, we are told, her bare-bones training in the Dogme 95 movement helped her to keep down the costs of An Education.
     Playing Jenny, Carey Mulligan (best actress, BAFTA, London critics, British Independent Spirit Award, National Board of Review, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington, D.C., Chicago critics, Dallas-Fort Worth critics) suggests she may be the British Claire Danes. She has convinced me that either she or Barber, or both, are vile, insipid, self-important. For the record, not a sliver of Mulligan’s performance reflects the sixties.

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