An Education (2009) Blind Spot Review 

An Education (2009)

Directed by Lone Scherfig

Screenplay by Nick Hornby & Based on An Education by Lynn Barber

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A coming-of-age story about a teenage girl in 1960s suburban London, and how her life changes with the arrival of a playboy nearly twice her age.

My Opinion:

This is my first Blind Spot review of 2016 (you can see all 12 of my Blind Spot choices HERE). I’m even managing to do this in January! Maybe I can aim to do these on the last Monday of every month. Maybe. I did start with the “easiest” watch, though (I’ll have to work up the nerve for things like Battle Royale). This movie was pretty good. Nothing too memorable but a solid film all around with Carey Mulligan in a star-making role.

There were two main reasons I’ve been meaning to watch this movie: Nick Hornby & Carey Mulligan. I like Nick Hornby’s books (High Fidelity being the best) so I was interested in this as he adapted the screenplay, which earned him an Oscar nomination. I also should really try to watch Brooklyn now since he’s again nominated for the adapted screenplay Oscar for that as well. Anyway, An Education is a well-written film (I suppose credit also goes to the novel’s author, Lynn Barber) with a good story and a strong young central character played convincingly by Carey Mulligan (which also earned her a best actress Oscar nomination). Oh, and the film itself was also nominated for Best Picture that year so it was up for three big awards and I’d say it deserved each of those nominations.

I first noticed Carey Mulligan in the absolutely fantastic Doctor Who episode Blink, in which she carried the whole show. I think this was back when they decided they’d have one episode each season which wouldn’t really feature The Doctor? They should do that again since Blink was a million times better than Doctor Who now – I don’t even watch it anymore. 😦


This photo is from Doctor Who, not An Education. Although it would’ve been cool to have some Weeping Angels in this movie…

Anyway! I’m assuming that role may be what got her noticed as An Education wasn’t long after that? I have to say I’ve been disappointed with some of her roles since (especially in The Great Gatsby) but I don’t know if some of that has been a fault with those scripts. She’s perfect in An Education, though, and utterly believable as a 16/17-year-old girl in 1960’s London. It looks like she was about 23 when she filmed it but I had to look into it as I did wonder if she was actually only a teenager at the time – it did seem like she could be (she doesn’t look like the thirtysomething cast of Grease!).

This isn’t a big flashy film and it’s not one that everyone would necessarily go for but it’s a good “Sunday afternoon” watch. Which sounds kind of insulting but I don’t mean that in a bad way. I’m also doing my best to not call this film “nice” as that word annoys the hell out of my husband. But, well, that’s how I feel about this one! So I’ve looked up “nice” at thesaurus.com:

An Education is “admirable, amiable, approved, attractive, becoming, charming, commendable, considerate, copacetic, cordial, courteous, decorous, delightful, ducky, fair, favorable, fine and dandy, friendly, genial, gentle, good, gracious, helpful, ingratiating, inviting, kind, kindly, lovely, nifty, obliging, okay, peachy, pleasant, pleasurable, polite, prepossessing, seemly, simpatico, superior, swell, unpresumptuous, welcome, well-mannered, winning, winsome”.

HA! I like “ducky”. This movie is ducky!

1960’s London (and also Paris) is a great time period & setting so I really enjoyed that. And Mulligan was adorable in that dress in the movie’s poster! The story, although slightly less relevant nowadays, is one I’d like to have my daughter watch when she’s the same sort of age as Mulligan’s character. Basically, the story is about Mulligan falling for a charming older man and how she’s willing to give up everything for him (mainly, her education – she’s a smart girl who plans to go to Oxford University).

I guess the only complaint I’d have about this film is that I hated Peter Sarsgaard’s smarmy character. I honestly don’t know if that was the point, though, or if that’s just how he happened to come across? I was thinking “how could she fall for this idiot?” but maybe the whole point is that a 16-year-old girl doesn’t know any better? He actually gave me the creeps. It just kind of sucked as I felt he let the film down and I wonder if I’d have liked it a bit more with a different actor. He just seemed so “wrong” while Mulligan felt so “right”. That’s my only real complaint, though. Overall, I enjoyed An Education although it’s not really something that would become a favorite or anything like that. It’s worth watching just once if you think you’d like it. It’s ducky!

My Rating: 7/10

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Suffragette (2015) Review

Suffragette (2015)

Directed by Sarah Gavron

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Ben Whishaw, Meryl Streep

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.

My Opinion:

I went to a movie with the hubby the other day and I really needed to go to one since I hadn’t been to one in months and I was having major withdrawal. There weren’t a lot to choose from (I’m not really a Bond fan and The Peanuts Movie doesn’t come out in the UK until the end of December. Grr!! I’m not happy about that!). Anyway, I fully admit that I don’t often feel like watching a “heavy” film but Suffragette was the only thing showing at a time that worked out for us. 

Well, I’m glad I saw it because I thought it was really good. I’m quite sure it will end up in my Top Ten Movies Of 2015 when I make the final list. I’ve seen some “meh” reviews of it on the blogs here but I didn’t feel that way about it at all.

I’ll also admit this right now: I’ve never had much of an interest in “history”. I can understand why some people do but it was always one of my least favorite subjects in school and you’re unlikely to find me ever watching the History Channel. The past is the past – I’m more interested in the present and the future. So I of course knew of the Suffragettes although I didn’t know a lot of specifics. I definitely have even more of an appreciation for what these women did after seeing this movie, though, which to me should be the point of movies about important historical events.

I’m aware that Carey Mulligan’s character and story are fictional & I think that may be part of the reason why this movie isn’t being praised quite as much as historical dramas which are based on completely true stories. I have no issues with some fictional characters, though, as long as the story is told well. Mulligan’s character is an amalgamation of the many nameless women who, at great personal cost, fought for something they believed in.

Would I have been a Suffragette? Would I have dared to speak up at a time when a woman questioning things as simple as why she wasn’t allowed to vote yet was expected to follow the law or why she got less pay than a man doing the exact same job could lead to a beating by police, time in prison, torture if she chose to go on a hunger strike, and the possibility that employers, friends & loved ones (both male & female) would turn their backs on her just for questioning these very basic rights that we take for granted nowadays? No – I wouldn’t have been a Suffragette. I’m the type who doesn’t even speak up for herself now in 2015 so I have a tremendous amount of respect for these women who did so at at time when it was downright dangerous to ask for equality. These are the women who young girls should be looking up to (I discussed the basics of this movie with my own daughter after watching it). It breaks my heart that more girls know the names of each useless Kardashi-thingy than a name like Emmeline Pankhurst.

I’m not going to act like I knew much, though, as I already said that I never had much of an interest in history. So while I knew about Pankhurst, I’ll admit that I knew nothing about the other real-life female character in this movie (Emily Wilding Davison). Hubby had a good giggle when he leaned over & said “you’re the only person in this cinema who doesn’t know what’s about to happen, aren’t you?” when her big moment came. Yep! What can I say? I got a typical 80’s American history education. 😉

So as a movie-blogger and not a history-blogger, I have to say that I thought the actresses in Suffragette were all fantastic. Streep plays Pankhurst but it’s an even smaller role than I was expecting (I think she had no more than ten minutes of screen time). She was, of course, her usual Streep-y self. She’s always great & I also love her in real life. She’s feisty! She’s always speaking out about her beliefs so it’s no surprise that she would play someone like Pankhurst. The same goes for Helena Bonham Carter, who plays the exact sort of character you’d expect in Suffragette. I’ve never considered myself a fan of hers but the truth is that she’s an excellent actress and another one that I have respect for in real life (she’s a feisty one too – I probably like strong, feisty women because I’m such a pushover myself).

Finally, the characters played by both Anne-Marie Duff & Carey Mulligan were based on the many working class Suffragettes who found it very hard to fight for a cause while also trying just to survive & make a living for their families. Both actresses were fantastic and I was happy to see Mulligan in a great role again. I was such a big fan of hers after that Doctor Who episode Blink but then she seemed to play the same characters over & over (her excruciatingly dull Daisy in The Great Gatsby drove me nuts, but that may be more the fault of how that character was written). 

I suppose I especially liked Mulligan in this as I could relate to her character, who kind of inadvertently gets involved in a cause she’s not sure she wants to be a part of due to the ramifications and the fact that she has a son she loves & has to take care of. We know about the more public figures such as Pankhurst but it’s hard to imagine the sacrifices these working class women made, especially when even a peaceful protest could land them in jail for days, hurting the family who depended on their meager wages. Mulligan may be one of the fictional characters but she felt the most “real” to me. Bravery isn’t always bold & brash – as much as I’d love to be an educated & ass-kicking character like Bonham Carter’s, there are more women in this world who are like Mulligan’s character & I’d be happy to see her understated performance get an Oscar nomination.

I did do a tiny bit of reading about the real women after watching Suffragette (this is a really good article about some of the real women who inspired the characters in the movie: Biography.com).

My favorite story is that Helena Bonham Carter’s character is a combination of a husband & wife team who fought for women to get the vote (Barbara Ayrton Gould and her husband Gerald) and a woman who knew martial arts & taught the Suffragettes jiu-jitsu to defend themselves and to protect the leaders of the movement (which became known as “suffrajitsu” according to the above article. I love that!). This woman was named Edith Garrud and Bonham Carter was inspired by her & had her character named Edith in her honor. I want to learn suffrajitsu! That’s awesome. 🙂

Have a look at the above article if, like me, you’re not much of a history buff. I know I really should do more reading about the real-life Suffrage movement as I do find women’s rights throughout history to be quite fascinating (mainly due to the fact that I find it just plain confusing why all human beings, to this day, still aren’t all treated equally). The film ends with statistics showing the years in which women earned the right to vote in various countries and it’s shocking just how recent a lot of those dates were (never mind the places where they still aren’t allowed to vote even now). As far as this movie goes, I think it does its job in bringing attention to a still important topic as, to me, Suffragette is just as much about everyone’s basic human rights as it is about women being able to vote. I know not everyone loved it but this movie gets my vote.

My Rating: 8/10

Top Ten Actresses I’d Watch In Pretty Much Anything

Okay – it was fun bitching about my most hated actors & actresses last week but now it’s time to do another list that Abbi of Where The Wild Things Are has done. You can see her list of “The Top Ten Actresses That I’d See In Pretty Much AnythingHERE. So here’s my own list of actresses I love. (Yes – I do love Drew Barrymore!). 🙂

With my favorite actors list, I’ve had to narrow it down by only including living actors so I’ve done the same here. Otherwise, Grace Kelly would be on this list. Now here are The Ten Actresses I’d Watch In Pretty Much Anything (in no particular order…):

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Amy Adams
Best Movie: Her or Catch Me If You Can but she was lovely in Junebug

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Emily Blunt
Best Movie: Edge Of Tomorrow but I also love The Adjustment Bureau

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Melanie Laurent
Best Movie: Inglourious Basterds

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Jennifer Lawrence
Best Movie: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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Drew Barrymore
Best Movie: E.T. The Extra Terrestrial but I also love The Wedding Singer & Whip It

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Chloe Grace Moretz
Best Movie: Hugo

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Sandra Bullock
Best Movie: Gravity but I do love Speed. (Gravity helped to put Bullock back on this list. But I still wouldn’t watch that thing she did with Melissa McCarthy. Damn! I missed her on my “Most Annoying” list…

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Carey Mulligan
Best Movie: Shame but she was better in Never Let Me Go. (If I’ve forgotten someone, Carey Mulligan would be the first one replaced. I found her disappointing in Shame and beyond bland in The Great Gatsby. Hopefully she’ll have another good role soon…)

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Elisabeth Shue
Best Movie: Adventures In Babysitting

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Michelle Pfeiffer
Best Movie: Ladyhawke

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) Review

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Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Starring:
Oscar Isaac
Carey Mulligan
John Goodman
Garrett Hedlund
Justin Timberlake

Executive Music Producer: T Bone Burnett

Running time: 105 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Inside Llewyn Davis is a 2013 American comedy-drama film… about one week in the life of a singer who is active in New York’s folk music scene in 1961. Although Llewyn Davis is a fictional character, the story was partly inspired by the autobiography of folk singer Dave Van Ronk. Most of the folk songs performed in the film are sung in full and recorded live.

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My Opinion:

Meh. I don’t know. I saw this early last week and have been putting off reviewing it because…. Meh.

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I’ll start by saying I’ve never been a huge fan of the Coen brothers so that won’t have helped. Don’t hate any of their movies but never have exactly loved one either. Oscar Isaac does a decent job playing an unlikeable character in this. Carey Mulligan does a decent job playing an unlikeable character in this (but not for long – her role was smaller than I was expecting). John Goodman does a decent job playing an unlikeable character in this. Garrett Hedlund does a decent job being a hottie. I’ve not really seen him in anything else but I plan to now! And Justin Timberlake does a decent job playing Justin Timberlake.

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Hottie & Sulley

There’s a cat so I guess that’s good. If you like cats. Which I don’t. There’s folk music so I guess that’s good. If you like folk music. Which I mostly don’t other than the occasional Bob Dylan. There’s, um… Oh wait. That’s about it. Oh! I kind of liked the scene where they sang that silly Mr Kennedy song and I was all like “hey, that guy with the low voice is in Girls!”. Oh wait – I thought of another thing. There’s a lot of moping so I guess that’s good. If you like people moping.

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I really hope this isn’t the first review of mine that someone new to this blog is reading! This must be my worst review ever. (I’m lying – it’s totally not the worst. Don’t go digging through my oldest stuff!). 😉

What I’m saying is… This movie is okay. Not a lot happens. If you love the Coen brothers, don’t worry – you’ll like this one just fine. If you’re not a huge Coen brothers fan or if you have no experience with their films, don’t make this the first film of theirs that you see. They have better. But they probably have worse as well (I’ve not seen everything). Sorry for the crappy review – I struggled knowing what to say with this one! It’s not bad. I just won’t remember it in a couple years. Those are the films that depress me the most – I’d almost rather watch a REALLY BAD movie. At least they’re memorable.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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Man, I’m going to take some heat for this one…

Shame (2011) Review

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Shame (2011)

Directed by Steve McQueen

Starring:
Michael Fassbender
Carey Mulligan
James Badge Dale
Nicole Beharie

Running time: 101 Minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Michael Fassbender is a sex addict and isn’t shy about walking around fully nude.
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My Opinion:

Seriously – I’ll make this a quickie (Ha!). Because, obviously, I’m not mature enough to do a proper review for this. But I have at least decided to not grab a thesaurus and use the word “large” in as many ways as possible throughout the review.
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Michael Fassbender plays a sex addict. So it’s already a movie I can’t relate to in the slightest (TMI?). He struggles with this & it’s very serious & it’s ruining his life and OH MY GOD he’s walking around FULLY NAKED! And I totally didn’t rewind that & freeze frame it & actually take a picture of the TV screen. Who would do that? That would be immature.
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Then Fassbender’s equally messed-up-in-the-head sister Carey Mulligan comes to stay with him unexpectedly (and totally uninvited). And OH MY GOD we see her fully naked too!!!!

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Seriously, though, Fassbender’s acting in this is very very good. I hate to say that I was slightly disappointed with Carey Mulligan, though. Oh I hate saying that as I do like her! But this is the second movie recently that I DIDN’T like her in (The Great Gatsby being the other one but I think that was mainly the fault of the script). She’s fine – she’s not bad in Shame but… I don’t know – Maybe she wasn’t quite right for the role. And I think she just couldn’t out-act Fassbender. They had a good creepy incestuous sexual tension thing going on that worked, though. I guess. Ew.
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Summary:

Does Shame really explore sexual addiction & do we learn anything by the end of the film? No. Only that no addiction is ever a good thing. Oh, and that most of us are totally f*&ked up in some way but some are better at hiding it than others. So the movie only states the obvious and I suppose it was successful for A) a truly great performance from Fassbender and B) being a bit racy, which always gets attention. Heck, it turns into almost full-on porn there for a scene toward the end (I think. I’m not an expert on porn).

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Is it good? Well, yeah. It’s a bit artsy, it’s filmed well (not that I know anything about filmmaking but it all looked very good), and it has some great acting including a very memorable performance from Fassbender. Did it change my life? No. Did it ruin my life? No. Am I glad I watched it? Yes. And I have a picture saved on my phone of my favorite part.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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The Great Gatsby (2013) Review

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The Great Gatsby (2013)

Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Starring:
Leonardo DiCaprio
Tobey Maguire
Carey Mulligan
Joel Edgerton
Isla Fisher
Jason Clarke
Amitabh Bachchan

Running time: 142 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Rich people are bastards. Don’t get drawn into their world – Stay a nice Midwesterner!

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My Opinion:

Okay – I’m trying to catch up on reviewing the 2013 films that I’ve seen. Out of 41, I only have three left to do (The Great Gatsby, Sound City & Gravity, which I’ve just seen). So here we go!

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I never got around to reviewing Gatsby because I wasn’t sure what to say about it. I went to see it with a friend and she’s the one who chose it – it’s not really my type of thing. I didn’t mind Romeo + Juliet (but that may be due to my slightly weird crush on John Leguizamo). I really didn’t like Moulin Rouge (but that may be due to my slightly weird dislike of Nicole Kidman).

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Here’s my Great Gatsby knowledge prior to seeing the 2013 film: NOTHING! Never read the book, never saw the Robert Redford film. I think that helped, though, as the only thing I really enjoyed about the film was the story and it was nice not knowing beforehand how it would end. Other than the overall main story going on, I didn’t find the rest of it to be a very good film.

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Music:

Annoying. I know that’s important in these Baz Luhrmann films like Moulin Rouge but I found it all very distracting in Gatsby. Instead of going “Oh that’s cool & clever how they’ve stuck this modern music in this old timey film” it just felt totally out of place in this one. Okay, and I just didn’t like any of the songs (other than No Church In The Wild) so that didn’t help. I just wanted to find out what was going to happen in the story instead of suddenly having to hear Will.i.am. Yuck. (I’m aware I sound like a grumpy old person).

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Actors/Characters:

Out of place & jarring music aside, I really did like the story as I said and I liked Leo (usually do – he’s a great actor) and even Tobey Maguire was less annoying than usual. But one thing I was really looking forward to beforehand was seeing Carey Mulligan. I’ve liked her ever since that great Doctor Who episode Blink (which was pretty much all her & barely featured Doctor Who and still managed to be one of the best episodes in recent years). So, unfortunately, I feel really bad having to say that I didn’t like her in Gatsby. I can’t say that she was “wrong for the part” as I don’t know anything about the character. Maybe it’s a poorly written character in this script? No idea. Maybe it’s not her fault but I found it really hard to believe that someone would be so completely in love with a girl who’s soooo damn BORING. She’s adorable & I’ve always thought blonde hair & brown eyes are lovely together and she’s been great in other things so… I don’t know. Just really wasn’t feeling the Daisy Buchanan character! Leo’s Gatsby & Maguire’s Nick were the two best characters by far and the only ones that I cared about – I could take or leave the rest of them. The rest were hateful (but I suppose they were meant to be). Well, Daisy’s friend (Jordan? The golfer…) was a decent character. But… Daisy’s husband – prick! Isla Fisher’s Myrtle – moron! Daisy – vapid! Everyone else – boring, apparently, as I can’t remember anyone else.

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Summary:

The Great Gatsby wasn’t as bad as I’m making it sound. The story was intriguing (but I don’t think the movie can exactly take credit for this). Leo was good & he was believable as was Tobey Maguire’s relationship with him. It’s just unfortunate that their friendship was far more believable & interesting than the “romance” with Dull Daisy! The film was lovely to look at and the story was good enough to make me mostly forgive the music that felt totally out of place but luckily didn’t take over the entire film (the music was way less prominent than I’d been expecting it to be before seeing the film). Overall, I liked it okay but it’s thanks only to a) The story b) Leo’s Gatsby c) The relationship between Gatsby & Maguire’s Nick. Maybe I should read the book?

My Rating: 6.5/10

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