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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An Education - My Review

Carey Mulligan is cute as a button. She appears to be this year’s "it" girl and she wears the mantle well. I went to see her new film An Education over the weekend and I must say it was quite enjoyable. You can't really go wrong with a script written by Nick Hornby. He has perfected the art of writing characters that are charming even when they are being shits.

It's early 60s London and Carey Mulligan's character, Jenny, is working hard at her all girls preparatory school with her (and her father's) sights on Oxford. She longs to be out from under her parents' expectations and on her own so she can read what she wants, smoke cigarettes, sit in cafes and experience everything life has to offer. Then she meets David, a charming older man who allows her to begin these worldly experiences a little sooner than expected.

Carey Mulligan gives a promising performance and seems to validate her up and comer status. She's getting a lot of Oscar buzz already and although I think she was very good, it's not the kind of tour de force performance that I usually consider Oscar nomination fodder (I'm still partial to Abbie Cornish's performance in Bright Star as the most astonishing work done by a young actor this year). The best thing about Carey Mulligan's portrayal of Jenny is that it was very authentic, a refreshing quality in a young Hollywood actor.

Peter Sarsgaard was incredible as always. His character, David, the older man who sweeps in and opens our young heroine's eyes to the wonders of an adult world, is a tricky character to play. Luckily Sarsgaard is an accomplished actor who was able to get across David's charm without any of the smarminess that would usually accompany an older man pursuing a teenage girl.

The two actors played well together, and again I'm going to use the word authentic. Their interest in one another was believable and the way their relationship developed slowly from a friendship to something more (and on the girl's terms, not the man's) made the situation palatable and not uncomfortable to watch.

The rest of the cast was just as good, from Alfred Molina's over protective, blustery father, to Rosamund Pike as David's spacey blonde socialite friend who takes young Jenny under her womanly wing. Emma Thompson as the headmistress of Jenny's school struck me as a wee bit of stunt casting and although she played her scenes with her usual aplomb, the entire time she was onscreen it was just, "Hey look! It's Emma Thompson!" I think Olivia Williams as one of Jenny's teachers was my favorite of these lesser characters and I enjoyed their scenes together very much. Olivia's teacher character is a nice foil for Jenny's new sophistication, trying to point out to Jenny the falseness that she has accidentally fallen into and giving her a way to escape it once she comes to the realization on her own.

I will watch the upcoming awards season with eagerness to see how well An Education will do. I’ll also be watching the new "it" girl Carey Mulligan as she navigates her first season with her new found Hollywood status.

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