As you may already know, we're lucky to have two new(ish) editors on our team: Kevin Clarke and Kerry Weber. Ms. Weber, recently of Catholic Digest brings a fresh perspective and lively prose to our pages (and our website). Here she reviews "An Education," a provocative film that's been getting lots of Oscar buzz, particularly for the performance by newcomer Carey Mulligan. It's also a somewhat controversial movie, given its treatment of the sexual coming-of-age of a young woman in 1960s England. In this era of heightened awareness of sexual abuse, what does a film about the seduction of a young woman by a much older man, played with aplomb by Peter Sarsgaard, have to say? Does it glorify an essentially improper relationship? Is "improper" too weak a word? What are the respective roles of the woman's parents? (The film "The Reader" with Kate Winslet faced similar questions.) We're fortunate to have, in our online Culture section, a woman reviewing this movie about a woman. Kerry Weber begins:
In Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” the titular king, frustrated by his diminishing power and duplicitous daughters, cries, “Who is it that can tell me who I am?” Lear is confused about his identity and unsure of his judgment, and seeks external validation as a way to redefine himself amidst his struggles.
In "An Education," directed by Lone Scherfig, and based on a memoir by the British journalist Lynn Barber, this line from Lear is read aloud not by an aging king but by a schoolgirl in a literature class. As her classmate finishes the line, Jenny (Carey Mulligan) eagerly raises here hand, as if she were being asked to provide an answer for Lear's question, which, for much of the film, also seems to be her own.
A bright sixteen-year-old who loves English literature and French culture, Jenny feels trapped in her small, early-1960s English town. Things close to home bore her—her parents and teachers in particular, as they seem removed from the sophisticated culture for which she longs.