Their Finest (B+). It doesn’t have the grabbiest title, but this picture by Danish director Lone Scherfig (An Education) is my favorite of the year so far. The year is 1940, and Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton, Quantum of Solace) has moved from Wales to London with her artist husband Ellis (Jack Huston, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). But his dour art isn’t selling, so Catrin gets a job as a screenwriter on a propaganda film about the evacuation of Dunkirk. She clashes with the obnoxious head screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), learns to massage the bruised ego of past-his-prime movie star Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy, I Capture the Castle), and generally gets a crash course in the trials and tribulations of moviemaking. Jeremy Irons (Appaloosa) pops up unexpectedly as a pompous war minister. The sexism of the era is conveyed effectively without being overdone. On the whole, I quite enjoyed the movie.
An Education (A-). This 2009 release has been nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress for young Carey Mulligan (Pride & Prejudice). I think the nominations are deserved. Mulligan plays Jenny, a bright British schoolgirl in 1961. Her dad (played by Alfred Molina, Chocolat) is a loutish fellow who is set on Jenny’s going to Oxford, for all the wrong reasons. So when David, a suave fellow in his 30s, comes sniffing around Jenny, he easily gets dad to bless the relationship by pretending to be an Oxford man himself–with connections. A sordid affair begins, with David’s friends Danny (Dominic Cooper, Mamma Mia!) and Helen (Rosamund Pike, Pride & Prejudice) looking on. Peter Sarsgaard (The Skeleton Key) does a good job of playing David convincingly as someone that a naive schoolgirl could find attractive despite an underlying creepiness. A good film about a creepy subject–especially creepy considering that it is based on someone’s memoir.