Monday, January 27, 2014

An Education (2009) [PG-13] ****+

An Education is a classic coming-of-age story. Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a sixteen year old student in her final year at an all-girls preparatory school in suburban London in 1961. Her goal is to study English Literature at Oxford, but she has to master Latin first. Her creative outlet is the cello but she suspects that her life is drab, boring and pointless, and she chafes under her domineering father Jack (Alfred Molina), while her submissive mother Marjorie (Cara Seymour) observes passively.

Then, one day in a pouring rain a flashy Bristol sports car driven by a handsome man in his thirties stops and offers to drive her cello home so it won't get wet, and Jenny's life is transformed. David (Peter Sarsgaard) fascinates Jenny; he knows so much about life, he and his friends Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Helen (Rosamund Pike) introduce Jenny to jazz clubs, art auctions, champagne and fine dining. David intrigues Jenny's father and soon he's given David permission to take Jenny to Oxford for a weekend visit. It becomes harder and harder for Jenny to focus on her studies. Both her favorite teacher (Olivia Williams) and her headmistress (Emma Thompson) understand where Jenny's relationship with David is headed but are unable to communicate their fears to Jenny. Even when Jenny discovers the dark side of David and Danny's life, the pull of their lifestyle is too seductive for her to resist.

This is a well-crafted cautionary tale about the dangers every innocent young woman faces when she becomes involved with an older, worldly man. The screenplay by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About A Boy, Fever Pitch) is brilliant, the direction, which earned an Oscar nomination for Lone Scherfig is subtle and sensitive, the casting is excellent, and the pacing is perfect. Carey Mulligan displays an incredible range, from an ingénue schoolgirl bubbling with excitement, to a sophisticated young woman who knows she is perfectly dressed and coiffed, to a devastated, tearful young woman who realizes her life is crumbling around her and her dreams have turned to dust. The camera loves Mulligan's face; when she is on screen, she owns the scene. This is Carey Mulligan's film and her Oscar nomination for Best Actress is well deserved. 

Labels: drama, romance, teenager   
Internet Movie Database 
Metacritic 85/100  
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=79, viewers=76)  

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