Photography, music outshine forgettable romance
mance she crafted for “An Education,” Lone Scherfig takes on this best selling book by Brit David Nicholls, who also adapted the screenplay. Unfortunately, lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place.
The title refers to June 15, the one day of the year the movie focuses on between the two leads, Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess). We meet them in 1988 on this day as they are graduating from university. They have a casual encounter that almost leads to a one-night stand, but the two decide to be friends instead.
Scherfig leads into each June 15 with a clever title so we can keep up with the year in the lives of Em and Dex. As the 1990s get underway, aspiring poet Em is waiting tables in a Mexican restaurant in London (you know that can’t be good), but eventually finds her way into teaching. Meanwhile Dex becomes a TV presenter (think Ryan Seacrest). His success leads to alcohol and drug abuse and he becomes a real lout. Even his own mother (the always fabulous Patricia Clarkson) worries that he isn’t “a nice man.”
Going by the passing years — almost 20 by the movie’s end — this has got to be the longest courtship on record. The two characters snarl at each other, make up, cry on each other’s shoulders, quarrel and quit speaking for years and then find their way back to one another — and they still don’t get it?Emma finds romance built on like instead of love with an ersatz comedian Ian (Rafe Spall), while Dex romances the ladies, first a bubble headed blonde from his TV show and then Sofie (Romala Garai), a sophisticated rather blah blonde with whom he has a child.
By the time the new millennium dawns, Dex is getting sort of sober but is still a whiny creep, and Emma is a bestselling author of children’s books. Much of this takes place off-screen, but as the years fly by Nicholls catches us up with dialog designed to fill in significant events from the past year.
Besides asking the audience to believe these two people would put off their obvious attraction for one another for so long, the characters themselves are a problem. Dex’s mother is right; he is not a nice man, so it defies reason for Emma to continue to put her faith in him. Self-help authors would reference him as a classic Peter Pan—a socially immature dreamer. Emma is intelligent enough to know this, yet year after year she coddles, scolds and cajoles him—just like a 5-year-old ought to be treated.
There are other problems, such as Hathaway’s attempts at a British accent — a truly awful imitation that veers from upper class to Cockney from scene to scene. Actually it travels across the British Isles to Ireland and Scotland, too. I haven’t heard anything this bad since Kevin Costner mangled the Queen’s speak in “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.” There are even moments in mid-sentence the faux accent drops out completely and is replaced with her natural American accent.
Also, the underlying message from the frumpish, bookish Emma with her scraggly hair and Harry Potter frames vs. the type of woman Dex gravitates to, namely shapely blonde women, suggests that Emma isn’t attractive enough to be his lover, just everything else — confidante, confessor, consoler. It’s only as she matures and her hair softens and she loses the glasses that he begins to notice and even comment on her appearance.
Production values fare better with scenic shots of London and Paris and other assorted venues from country to shore photographed by Benoit Delhomme. These locations fill in what is really a rather mundane, albeit lengthy, love story between two mostly forgettable people. And as is always the case, Rachel Portman’s lovely score elevates this movie in