Friday, January 29, 2010

A Charming An Education

As I read this post, I realize that in choosing to focus on one theme, I don’t represent the full movie well.  Know that I really enjoyed it, I recommend it (for mature, thinking audiences), the performances are a delight, and there is much joy in the telling.  And now to theme…
A couple years back at Comic-Con, I attended a panel on Faith and Comics, and watched as one panelist spouted off on why he felt that folks like DC and Marvel could not possibly be moral (his opinion, his bad, stupid, shallow opinion).  His reasoning?
“They make evil look attractive.  There is nothing attractive about sin!”
Several of us sat stunned.  A number of the faithful applauded him – that is the kind of mindless rhetoric that asks for applause.  And finally, one panelist called him on it – and I paraphrase:
“Are you a freaking idiot?  Of course sin is attractive – that’s the very definition of temptation.  No one would sin if it weren’t attractive.  Sheesh.”
Which puts me in mind of AN EDUCATION.
Spoiler alert:  I will be giving away plot points ahead.
The appealing movie deals with Jenny, a young woman (16 going on 17), and her relationship with a much older man, David, who seduces her.
What keeps such a premise from being just out right icky (there is a sub-tonal icky throughout, but it never rises to, say, VENUS level icky) is that Nick Hornby specialty: David is so very charming.
In fact, after their first delightful meeting in the rain, I was convinced that David’s intentions were pure and platonic.  David will be good for Jenny, thought I. 
Just like Jenny’s dad (played to perfection by Alfred Molina), I went from “Of course not” to “well, maybe” about David being with Jenny.  I can’t say as I ever embraced the relationship, but I will admit that I thought “maybe.”
He is, after all, so very charming.
And the defense against David wasn’t as charming – but true to life.  I felt for the school principal who could only say that an education was important, but couldn’t begin to articulate why. 
How often have we encountered arguments that consist of “Because I said so,” or “Because every one knows it” or “Because that’s the way it’s always been”?
Not good enough for the Jennys of the world; at least not with the Davids whispering such pleasing, attractive reasons why not.
In a brilliant, pivotal scene, Jenny is walking out on David, having discovered one of his secrets that she knows crosses the ethical line.  David pursues her, and presents her with two arguments.
First – Jenny has gone along with all the small indiscretions he has led her through thus far; in essence, she’s already guilty.  Why would another small transgression change anything?
And the irresistible argument that wins her over:  This is who I am, claims David.  And you like me, right?  So if you like me, and this action I took is just part of who I am, how can you judge my actions?
I think it was at that point that I turned to Cath and said, “Oh, this movie can not end well.”
Jenny is seduced by charm; David is revealed as truth comes out; and everyone has to live with the consequences.
All in a delightful package, with only a slightly icky undercurrent.
Just my thoughts,

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