Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard star in the touching coming-of-age drama An Education.
Photo: Sony Classics
Stylish, and breezy, An Education breaks from the pack of coming-of-age films with clever writing, strong performances and direction that perfectly captures the mood of post-war England on the verge of the 60s sexual revolution. An Education may not be one of the year’s best films, as it is being hailed, but it’s worth seeing for the magnificent star-is-born performance from newcomer Carey Mulligan.
An Education poster.
One day, while waiting in the rain after a cello class, she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), a charismatic and charming 30-something gentleman who offers her a ride home. After a couple of meetings, David introduces Jenny to his friends and along with them, everything she’s ever wanted and an opportunity to get away from her drab life in middle-class England. With David making her dreams a reality and charming her parents as well, Jenny is faced with a choice of continuing her “boring” life in school or following David into a lifestyle full of excitement and liberty. What follows is an education that Jenny will cherish for the rest of her life.
Sounds just like any other coming-of-age film, doesn’t it? What sets An Education apart from previous films dealing with the subject is famed English writer Nick Hornby’s (About a Boy, High Fidelity) superb script, based off a memoir by journalist Lynn Barber. Hornby builds on a story that is rather plain –naïve teenager gets seduced by charming older man - into a multi-layered, entertaining, and thoughtful character-study of a young girl trying to find her place in a changing world.
Also to be credited is director Lone Scherfig, whose attention to detail is never-more evident in the perfect reproduction of the 1960s setting – an era that is having a major comeback with the popularity of Mad Men, the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man and the upcoming musical Nine - and what life was for a woman in that period.
The acting is also uniformly strong. Peter Sarsgaard is excellent as the charming, yet shady David. A lesser actor could have made David look like a creepy pedophile but Sarsgaard’s charisma and charm really make him into a rounded individual you grow to care for.
Alfred Molina, someone whose work I’ve always respected and enjoyed, gives one of his best performances as Jenny’s bumbling yet loving and protective father who, like Jenny, is charmed by the eloquence of David. This is a performance that is bound to get him serious Oscar attention in January and I for one, couldn’t be happier.
However, the MVP, the star of the film is Carey Mulligan, who in her first leading role displays more intelligence, wit and maturity than most of Hollywood's leading stars. It really is hard to believe that such an incredible performance is coming from a 22-year-old actress. Since the movie revolves around her, she’s in almost every scene and man, does she pull it off. Some critics have compared Jenny to Juno, and in a way, they’re right. Both characters are intelligent, strong woman who are bored with their situation and are eventually forced into decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. Performance wise, Mulligan exceeds Ellen Page who played Juno. As for awards, forget the nomination, this is an Oscar-worthy performance.
You can follow other reviews and movie news by Reuben Pereira at Examiner.com