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October 22, 2009
Review - " An Education "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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An Education - movie poster
The film is awfully charming. It bops along with so much esprit and lively, responsive acting, and such an observant sense of
the period, you're seduced by the results in the same way charming, slightly oily David, played by Peter Sarsgaard, entices
young Jenny into his glamorous orbit of night life, day-tripping and illusions.

Sarsgaard, sporting a workmanlike posh dialect, receives top billing, but the film belongs to Carey Mulligan as Jenny. Now
24, the actress with the thrummy alto delivery already has done a good deal of film and theatrical work. "An Education"
showcases her comic range and natural authority. She is excellent.

Jenny, played with wit by the 24-year-old
British actress Carey Mulligan, is passionate,
inquisitive and smart, bound for Oxford and
stifled by her starchy private school and her
anxious, proper parents (Cara Seymour and
Alfred Molina). Jenny is a prototypical good
girl, bright, avid-eyed, in the Twickenham
area of southwest London. The time is 1961,
just as the culture was being pulled forward
and apart. The girl has a moony-eyed
teenage suitor named Graham, but just as
she's knuckling down for her Oxford entrance
exams, Jenny meets a good-looking fellow a
decade and a half her senior, with a maroon
sports car and the promise of something new,
dangerous and dazzling.

David and his chums, played by Dominic
Cooper and Rosamund Pike, offer Jenny a
metaphorical room with a view, ushering her into a world of culture, good food, the dog track, the high life. Sarsgaard
handles a tricky role with sly aplomb, allowing doubt and then revulsion to mix, drop by drop, into our impression of him.
David and his fabulous friends, Danny and Helen, turn out not to be the high-living swells Jenny takes them for, but
something rather more tawdry. And yet, even as she begins to see through them, and David in particular, Jenny plays along
with their charade, as if determined to follow her experiment to its conclusion. How does David make his money? Something
to do with property. "An Education" keeps key information hidden until it's good and ready to spill. Well in advance, the
Sarsgaard character's Jewishness is a red flag for certain influential and repressive parties in Jenny's universe, especially
the school headmistress, played by Emma Thompson. Olivia Williams provides the antidote, as Jenny's badly needed
mentor, Miss Stubbs. We are the people we know, and "An Education" illustrates the value as well as the cost of
exploring the human condition fully.

The film version of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" came out in the year in which "An Education" is set, and beyond the hairstyles,
there's something of the willful, gleeful Golightly reinvention expert about Jenny. Still, she's no poseur, at least not in
Mulligan's deft portrayal. As the character's sexual initiation (discreetly handled) gives way to a new chapter, director Lone
Carey Mulligan all glammed up in An Education
Emma Thompson & Carey Mulligan in An Education
An Education
Directed by: Lone Scherfig
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Dominic Cooper,
Rosamund Pike, Alfred Molina, Cara Seymour, Matthew Beard,
Emma Thompson, Olivia Williams, Sally Hawkins, Amanda
Fairbank-Hynes, and Ellie Kendrick.  

Being an aficionado of all things Jane Austen it's hard not to take
notice of the many Austen alumni present in "An Education".  The
star, Carey Mulligan, played Kitty Bennett in the 2004 "Pride and
Prejudice", along with Rosamund Pike as her older sister Jane
Bennett - Mulligan also played Issabella Thorpe in 2007's
"Northanger Abbey". Olivia Williams portrayed Jane Austen herself in
"Miss Austen Regrets". Dominic Cooper was miscast as John
Willoughby in the 2008 BBC version of "Sense and Sensibility". The
Oscar goes to Emma Thompson for penning the screenplay for the
1995 theatrical release of "Sense and Sensibility" in which she also
plays the elder sister Elinor Dashwood. And lastly Sally Hawkins is my
favorite Anne Elliot in "Persuasion". But then I guess there's a limited
number of British actors available so there's bound to be a bit of

Literature is full of cautionary tales of innocent young women
seduced by smooth-talking rakes. Jenny, a dutiful student and a
passionate consumer of modern novels and French pop records, has
surely encountered more than a few such stories. But at 16 and in
a terrible hurry, she seems less inclined to learn from the mistakes of
wayward romantic heroines than to join their ranks.
Scherfig plays the developments for as
much truth and sensitivity as the material
allows. Mulligan seizes the day. Parts like
these do not come around very often. She
has a touch of Audrey Hepburn mischief in
her smile.

She's here to stay, and while "An Education"
might have worked perfectly well with a
different young actress, happily we'll never
know. In the film’s historical view Jenny is a
generational pioneer, and Director Scherfig
makes some effort to reckon the costs
of her exploration as well as the thrills. Tears
do flow after the Champagne is all drunk. If
in hindsight “An Education” might make you
a little queasy, it is also hard to resist, like
David himself.