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An Education [Blu-ray]

 

(Lone Scherfig, 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Finola Dwyer/Wildgaze Films

Blu-ray: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: 'A' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:40:21.015

Disc Size: 32,688,772,628 bytes

Feature Size: 24,698,314,752 bytes

Video Bitrate: 26.93 Mbps

Chapters: 16

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 30th, 2010

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 3803 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3803 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), English, none

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentary with Director Lone Scherfig and Actors Carey Mulligan & Peter Sarsgaard

• The Making of An Education (8:40)

• Walking the Red Carpet (8:15)

• 11 Deleted Scenes (16:05)

 

 

The Film: 8
Based on a memoir by Lynn Barber, this coming of age soufflé flirts with the idea of becoming a romantic comedy. Paul Englishby's buoyant introductory music is a ruse, for despite the wit of Nick Hornby's screenplay, which makes certain we are entertained as well as educated, An Education is more serious than whimsy. Perhaps the function of that music is to reassure us that nothing really dreadful happens, but to a teenager on the verge of a likely acceptance to Oxford University, her flirtation with "the good life" nearly drowns her as we imagine it must have with other girls less centered.

Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is coming on to her seventeenth birthday and attends what we in the States would call a private school. She lives with her parents (Alfred Molina & Cara Seymour) in what she would describe as the most boring town in England: Twickenham in 1961. Not that she has anything to compare it with, which is a good part of why she is vulnerable to the comings on of David (Peter Sarsgaard), who drives a rare Bristol and insinuates himself into her family with consummate skill and flattery.

David, a man about twice her age, is what today we might consider a sexual predator, though hardly lethal. That this is obvious to us makes his game that much more interesting, since we are constantly on tenderhooks as to how he will persuade Jenny's parents that she should stay out late, or overnight on a trip to Oxford, and eventually Paris. Jenny, too, is in awe of David's skill. She knows he's a con man, but she ignores all the signs in favor of fine restaurants, fashionable clothes, and new older friends with taste and money to burn. And she's in love.

The other thing that makes Hornby's play so attractive is that Jenny is the smartest, if not the wisest, person in the story. This makes the tension between her competing desires (Oxford vs. Paris) that much more invigorating. It's not like she is oblivious to the obvious, but she is very good at rationalizing. For Jenny, it's not just a case of raging hormones, as it appears to be for her schoolmates.

Her parents, too, are susceptible to what David offers, and Hornby writes some of his best dialogue for Jenny and her father as they argue about what is the purpose of an education in the first place as versus finding a suitable husband. This argument is visited more soberly by Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams), Jenny's English Literature teacher. Jenny is not just her star pupil, she is the reason that keeps her at her post despite the relatively brain-dead students that rent space in her class year in and year out. But Jenny sees Miss Stubbs as a spinster with nothing but the occasional Jennys to live for, and Jenny can't imagine such a life for herself.

Actress Mulligan is some 7 or 8 years older than Jenny, but while she doesn't look 17, she acts it with all the starstruck naïveté that one can muster. She also speaks better than anyone (save Miss Stubbs) that, together with her older appearance, gives her a leg up as she joins David and her friends. Cara Seymour doesn't say much but she gives away everything about what she feels through her mobile expressions. It helps that she actually looks like she could be Carey's mother. Molina is awesome as he negotiates befuddlement and gullibility with Fawltyesque prejudice. Sarsgaard tends to look less than sober in many of his screen roles, and he assumes that familiar glazed over look here as well. It adds suspense to his sociopathy. Just where is he going with all this, we wonder? Rosamund Pike as "Aunt Helen" is blithely splendid as the airhead of the piece - she was nominated for a British Independent Film award for the role. Special kudos to Olivia Williams who nails Miss Stubbs' warmth, hope and exasperation with scarcely a gesture and a few words. As for our director, Lone Scherfig – not a household name outside of Denmark - An Education is her second film in English, and from the evidence we should expect to see much more of her in the future.

 

 

Image: 7/8   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Through no fault of the transfer I'm sure, the Blu-ray image quality for An Education is underwhelming to say the least. Though color representation is quite good and contrast is under control - I assume the blowouts in Paris are deliberate artistic choices - the image is often textureless, soft and grainy, especially in close-ups (perhaps to make Carey appear younger.) Check out Danny's dark gray jacket in capture 6 as an example – and this is one of the better moments. I found few instances of transfer issues to take away from one's enjoyment. As expected, the print is without blemish.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/7
An Education is given a DTS-HD MA 5.1 treatment whose main function is make Hornby's delicious dialogue intelligible and tasty. Surrounds are subtly employed most of the time, but come to life in club scenes where live music is sung and played. The racetrack scene has considerable life to it as well. From an acoustical point of view these scenes are so striking it sounds like we're in a different movie. I like the music, but I was not always convinced it was appropriate to the mood.

 

 

Operations: 8
I like the menu design and operation. Smart, informative and easy to use.

 

Extras: 4
The audio commentary is more of reminiscence, though I can hardly imagine what else it could have been. The Making-of featurette is short and to the point – again, the movie doesn't require much in depth coverage on this. The Red Carpet bit is entertaining. The eleven deleted scenes are about a minute and half each and shown in fairly raw form.

 

 

Bottom line: 7
Except to revisit some excellent performances I don't see much replay value in this otherwise recommendable title. The transfer represents the theatrical intent, but it's not much to look at.

Leonard Norwitz
April 2nd, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 




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