An Education

Terrible, and much worse than the generally favorable views led me to believe. I expected a bittersweet, if fairly tepid, tale of how a relationship between a young woman and an older man, despite its obvious attractions, was often not a good idea. Instead, I got this emotionally fraudulent, unidimensional morality play.

The story is set in 1961 for no apparent reason — perhaps to make a tedious political point about women’s limited opportunities in those bleak days before the women’s movement?

The story plods along predictably enough for the first hour. Then the plot falls off a plausibility cliff from which the movie never recovers. Did the writers go out for coffee and forget to come back?

Carey Mulligan is fairly convincing as a wise-beyond-her-years 16 year old, which is not that surprising considering that she’s a 25-year old actress who only looks 16.  The movie is filled with actors who have done fine work elsewhere — Peter Sarsgard, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson (!) — but here manage only uninteresting portrayals of unpleasant characters.

But here’s what really bothers me. This is a movie that purports to be a romantic tale.  But not only is there no s*x, there’s no romance, not even any eroticism. The young woman talks about wanting to have “fun,” but she never evidences any.  Nor does ner character learn anything about life from her encounter, except, perhaps, to dissemble with more skill.

Don’t waste your time, or your money.

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The Wedding Banquet

I saw this wonderful film by Ang Lee at a friend’s suggestion, and I’m happy to second the recommendation.

The film follows a young Taiwanese man, Wei-Tung, who has moved to NYC and made a lot of money in real estate. He has also become comfortable with his identity as a gay man, and has been living for several years with a Chinese-speaking white guy named Steve. Wei-Tung’s parents in Taiwan know nothing of his personal life, but they really really want him to get married and produce a grandson. Wei-Tung arranges to marry one of his tenants, a Chinese woman with immigration problems. The marriage will get her a green card and get his parents off his back. His parents want to come to NY to meet the bride, so Steve agrees to move into the basement and pose as Wei-Tung’s landlord.  It’s only a two-week visit — what could go wrong?

The film was made in 1993, years before gay marriage became a national issue.  And, although the film is not s*xually explicit, the man-on-man kiss early in the film was probably controversial enough to deny the film a broad audience. But given the social changes that have occurred in the last few years, the film’s matter-of-fact approach makes perfect sense. In fact, if it weren’t for the brief glimpse of the Twin Towers, and the huge size of the “portable” phones, you’d never guess this film was made nearly 20 years ago. Well worth your time.