Sunday, December 6, 2009

Girl Meets Man by guest blogger Steven Head

It is good to live in a city where there is an outlet for films the Marcus chain does not think is commercially viable. Monday night I went to "An Education" directed by Lone Scherfig starring Peter Sarsgaard and introducing Carey Mulligan. This film has caused a bit of controversy because it involves a high school age girl and an older man. Before seeing this film I wondered how it would compare with "Elegy", the Isabel Coixet film based on the Philip Roth book The Dying Animal, which is currently in the Showtime line up.

Both of these films are about younger women and older men. One difference is that Penelope Cruz, the younger woman to Ben Kingsley's older man, in "Elegy" is somewhere in her 20's at the start of the film. While Cruz's character exhibits the uncertainty of young adults that age, she is beyond the relative innocence of Jenny, the Mulligan character.

Another difference is that "Education" is told from the perspective of the female character while "Elegy" is from the male perspective. Jenny finds the world of concerts, auctions, foreign travel, and romance with an older man exhilarating. For the professorial Kingsley character, the dynamic of the younger woman is familiar yet Cruz is different from his usual flings, and we are forced to endure his insecurity at being dumped, which of course happens, and his jealousy and possessiveness.

The common element with both films is a bittersweet ending, but of very different flavors. The jazzed up soundtrack of Education reflects the tanginess of the story. And the thoughtful and moody work of Eric Satie supports Elegy's tartness.

I was fortunate enough to catch 'Elegy' in the same theater where I saw "An Education" when it was first released. Following that showing I had a short conversation with two not quite yet blue haired ladies who were surprised that Penelope Cruz could act. Clearly they had not followed her foreign film career with Pedro Almodovar. My initial experience of Ms. Cruz was in "Belle Epoque" where she played Luz, the youngest of four daughters tormenting a young deserter from the military their father had befriended.

"An Education" was the introduction of Carey Mulligan, although an search shows her working in "Bleak House" on Masterpiece Theatre, several episodes of "The Amazing Miss Pritchard" and an episode of "Dr Who". There were certain moments during Education when Ms. Mulligan displays the same kind of screen presence as Audrey Tautou. The search reveals she has minor roles in "Public Enemies" and "Brothers" plus parts in five projects for release in 2010. She may be an actress to watch.

So mark these films on your NetFlix list or look for them on cable. See you at the movies.

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