plot synopsis: A coming-of-age story about a teenage girl in 1960s suburban London, and how her life changes with the arrival of a playboy nearly twice her age.
A lot has been said about An Education so far, mostly about the supposed powerhouse, breakout performance from relative newcomer Carey Mulligan. And it’s all correct. This is one of the best films of the year.
Mulligan stars as Jenny, a brilliant young British girl growing up in the 1960s. She loves classical music, French films, and discussing Camus in coffee shops. So when along comes the dashing (but much older), and irresistibly charming David (Peter Sarsgaard), she falls head over heels for him. Even if everything else had been a failure, this film would’ve ultimately won me over from Mulligan’s performance alone. Fortunately, that’s not the case. Everything; from the beautifully done costumes, to the razor sharp script by Nick Hornby, to the superb supporting performances from a who’s who of British greats, is incredible.
But let’s start with Mulligan’s performance. I’ll be amazed if I see a better performance (in any category) this year. She manages to straddle this incredibly thin line of appearing to be this elegant, wiser-than-her-years woman, when, in actuality, she’s just another kid who doesn’t know the first thing about life being seduced and screwed up by someone who does (more or less). Endless comparisons have been made between her and Audrey Hepburn, and they’re all deserved. Every time she gives a smile (or more) to David, you just want to grab her and take her away from him so he can’t do anymore damage. These are the kinds of roles that make stars and win Oscars.
The supporting cast is also great, namely Alfred Molina (another good bet for Oscar) and Cara Seymour as Jenny’s parents. Molina’s simultaneous concern for his daughter’s future and disregard having the slightest idea of what she may want for herself is very hard to watch, while Seymour’s eyes give about 90% of her performance.
Finally, I want to give a special mention to the soundtrack, which, while it does include some legitimate 60s songs, also includes recordings from modern artists that may as well have been recorded 50 years ago. Beth Rowley’s “You’ve Got Me Wrapped Around Your Little Finger” could be big very soon.
An Education is one of the best films of the year, and it’s just a matter of time before every hipster girl in America is doing everything they can to dress like Ms. Mulligan.
(extra note: really, carey? shia labeouf? you can do better…)