Monday, May 31, 2010

Life of the mind

Every academic should have to watch An Education in order to affirm the life choices they have made; that is, as I was confidently assured before I even applied to grad school, grinding poverty, seeming narrowness, but mental freedom. (That last is part hogwash, but that's another day and another post.)

I've meant to see An Education ever since my friend went to see it completely under protest and came out converted. I believe the conversation ran something like this:

"Whatcha doing tonight?"
"Going to see a movie with my husband."
"Which one?"
"An Education."
"Oh, I've heard of it. I don't know what it's about."
"Some coming-of-age shit."

This, along with a tepid invitation to join them, was awesomely followed up with:
"Seriously, the things I do for love." Cue stalking away in the direction of the movie theater.

However, she enjoyed it, as did every single friend I have who saw it, and now I too can tell you that it is great, and Carey Mulligan is great, and Emma Thompson is, as always, dry and fantastic. As my friend observed, there really IS no way to describe the movie that doesn't sound like coming-of-age shit, but suffice it to say, the tale of a brilliant and rebellious 1960s English schoolgirl who is tempted by the glamorous life an older man offers her really does touch on all the expected issues of class, domesticity, gender, and generational shift. (Rosamund Pike, as a sort of anti-schoolgirl, a gorgeous but anxious gangster moll of sorts, is astonishing.) What I really wouldn't have expected is the way that it interwove this well and subtly with the whole life of the mind issue. Why become a dried up stick like your teachers when you could go out and have fun with your wealthy young man? Maybe I should show this to my students, come to think of it.

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