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“Quite An Education”

 

There’s something rewarding about a new discovery.  Though Carey Mulligan has made a stir on British Television’s “Doctor Who”, “An Education” is a star-making role, and Mulligan is a revelation as the school girl who learns about love and loss in early 60s England.

16-year-old Jenny (Mulligan) has one goal in life: to get into Oxford University.  She studies, excels in exams and even has time to play the Cello in the school orchestra.  She follows the framework set by her unimaginative father (Alfred Molina).  On a rainy day, her life detours into a world of excitement and adventure when David, a bon viant (Peter Sarsgaard), an older and captivating stranger, gives her a ride home.  The ultimate flim-flam man, David wins over Jenny’s parents, convincing them to allow her to spend weekends with him in Oxford and finally Paris, never realizing that their daughter has fallen in love.  Jenny disregards her past youthful fancies and focuses all her time at jazz clubs, auctions and other frivolities she can share with the playboy David. She insults her teachers; particularly the homely Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams) who Jenny has declared to have wasted her life on education and not “LIVED” life. Only when her detour becomes an impasse does Jenny have to reevaluate her values.

 

German Director Lone Scherfig infuses the film with culture that’s as seductive for the audience as for Jenny.  The sights and sounds of Paris, of the chanteuses singing at the opulent lounges, of the chamber orchestras playing Ravel, cast a spell.

 

Famed novelist Nick Hornby (“About a Boy”, “High Fidelity”) writes his first screenplay and it’s polished with irony and sparkling dialogue, like a Noel Coward play.

 

Mulligan has the gamine innocence of the Audrey Hepburn of “Roman Holiday,” yet the depth and contemplation of an older wiser Hepburn, circa “Two For The Road.” Her reactions to those around her speak volumes of her frustration and hunger for the kind of life David promises.

 

Sarsgaard’s David is an immoral pied piper, one who tempts with his wit and crazy ideas. As the girlfriend of his cohort, Rosamund Pike has some of the best lines as a party girl who is bubbly like a bottle of overpriced champagne. Proud of her ignorance, her character Helen is a reflection of the vacuous, shallow pool into which Jenny dives. As Helen’s polar opposite, Olivia Williams takes the stereotype of the old maid schoolteacher shows a woman of quiet dignity. 

 

A rich and rewarding film, “An Education” offers the movie world the gift of Carey Mulligan.  All the buzz around her is warranted. Grade: A

 

 

 

 

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