The funny thing about An Education was that I loved the film, but rather disliked the two main characters. Jenny was too up herself and David.. well, he was just a total creeper, wasn't he? What made me love the film were the supporting characters. The overbearing but well-meaning Dad, giddy schoolgirls living vicariously through their best friend and mainly, the characters played by Olivia Williams and Rosamund Pike.
I've always really looked up to my teachers and appreciated them. There's two teachers especially that inspired me in that sappy Dead Poets Society-kind of way, and I recognised a lot of them in Miss Stubbs' character, even though one was a dude.
Miss Stubbs was such a well-rounded character, her character showed through in a lot of seemingly throw-away lines and actions. The way she refused Jenny's gift from Paris was heart-breaking because Olivia Williams makes it seem like Miss Stubbs would love a bottle of Chanel perfume but she can't accept it because she wants Jenny to know she doesn't approve of her throwing away all of her potential for a man. Then, later on when Jenny needs her help, she's there with a "I don't need to tell you 'I told you so', do I?"-type attitude that is just perfect for her character and that particular situation. It's kind of refreshing -- in other films these characters are so quick to forget everything and come a-running, it's like they instantly lose all the dimension they had. I like that Miss Stubbs has some principals.
Also, the best line in the movie is delivered by Miss Stubbs when Jenny comes to visit her at home.
"This is lovely. All your books and pictures."
"Paperbacks and postcards, Jenny."
Another character I loved, was Rosamund Pike's Helen. Pike is a highlight in every film I've seen of hers, but Helen is one of the first characters with real depth I've seen her play. As the girlfriend of David's partner in crime (quite literally), Helen is in charge of Jenny's transformation, looks-wise, into a young woman. She takes Jenny under her wing and is genuinely nice to her from the moment they're first lumped together as the men go off to do business. She's a bit ditzy and probably not too well-informed in terms of culture, and her ignorance is a bit of a joke to the others.
At no point does Helen become a person to pity. You feel for her, but she still has so much going for her. I think that's why I disliked Jenny as a character because, as I saw it, she feels superior to Helen because Helen isn't as smart as Jenny (and the men make jokes about that), but still, besides being utterly beautiful, Helen has a kind of elegance, kindness and charm that people can't learn: you either have it or you don't. While beauty might fade, that elegance and grace that Helen has.. I don't know, in Helen's life that might just be as important as Jenny's intelligence is in Jenny's life.