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Sundance Day 9: An Education and Dare

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All is said and done. Sundance officially has one more day, but today was the last day for press screenings. Today was a great day. I was hoping that they’d schedule another screening of An Education, and they did. It was screened again for the press at 8:30 am this morning. I had to wake up extremely early to catch the bus in time, but it was worth it.

I’ve had a blast up here. It’s been a fun ride. With all said and done I’ve seen 21 films over the last nine days. I’ve been surprised with the overall quality of the filmmaking. This was my first year up at Sundance, and I didn’t expect such a consistent slate of good films.

I’m hoping to be able to return next year. Since I know how the festival works now, I will be able to plan my schedule better. I will try and get into my Q&A sessions with the cast and crew of the films.

It has been an experience to say the least. I’ve loved it up here. What’s better than watching films all day everyday?

With my farewell said, let’s talk about the last few movies I saw.

An Education

This film is getting a lot of buzz at the festival. Every screening has been sold out, and people have waited hours to even get a chance at getting on the wait list. It’s already got a distribution deal I would suspect that it will be in theaters soon.

An Education was written by Nick Hornby (About a Boy). It’s a British film, set in the ’60s, that tells the story of a precocious young teenage girl who falls for an older man. The young girl’s name is Jenny, played by Carey Mulligan, who is a fantastic young actress. She looks like she’s sixteen, but talks like she’s in her twenties. She’s extremely mature and has an imposing presence on screen.

Jenny is being groomed by her father (Alfred Molina) to go to Oxford. Nothing less will do. She goes to an all-girl private school. All she does every night is study. She loves French music and French books, but her father would much rather have her studying her Latin homework.

One day Jenny meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), a slick-talking, smooth individual. Everything he says or does instantly makes people like him. Jenny falls head over heals for David. But, she soon finds out that David may be keeping some secrets of his own.

The plot of An Education really isn’t that original in its concept, but the writing and acting are exceptional. Mulligan is good, but Molina steals the show every time he’s on screen. His character is unlike any other imposing father-figure character. Most fathers in movies like this are unchangeable. They are the way they are and they aren’t changing for anybody. But, above all he loves his little girl, and that shows even when he is being harsh.

I really did enjoy An Education. It’s all about how Jenny receives an education not in school, but in the school of life. The ending is a little too happy, especially for all the mistakes that Jenny had made, but this is a really solid film.

Dare

Dare is a high-school drama that is much more than just a drama about high school. It’s about three young kids that are dealing with thoughts and emotions that are hard for them to comprehend.

I saw this film at a public screening, and after the movie at the bus stop a few ladies were talking. They were saying how they realize that they really have no idea what their teenagers are up to. That they don’t really understand the things their kids have to deal with everyday.

Dare is told from the viewpoints of three different students. The first viewpoint is of Alexa. Alexa is the nerdy, thespian girl in school who gets straight A’s and wants nothing more than to be an actress on stage. Emmy Rossum plays Alexa. Emmy looks like a young Angelina Jolie. It was a little bit of a stretch for the filmmakers to expect the audience to believe Alexa was truly the ugly-duckling outcast at her school. Alexa is trying to take control of her life and she tries to do that by hooking up with the school hunk Johnny.

The next point of view we see is from Alexa’s best friend Ben. Ben is suffering from an identity crisis. By trying to find out who he really is he also finds out that he’s gay and that he likes Johnny.

The last point of view is shown to us through the eyes of Johnny, who lives in a giant mansion. No parents in sight. No one is around to truly show Johnny the love and acceptance that he needs. When Alexa and Ben show an interest in him for something more than just using him because he’s rich, Johnny wants to have the best of both worlds. He doesn’t see why he can’t have both Alexa and Ben.

I think it was best explained by writer David Brind in the Q&A after the screening. He said that when we look back on our high-school days they are funny. They are somewhat meaningless to us now. But, when we were in high school those problems were life and death situations. We took everything seriously. That’s true with Dare. These kids may look back on this situation and laugh realizing how silly it all was, but at this moment in time these kids are fighting for their lives.

With that, so long from Sundance, until next year!

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