Most of the talk revolving around the charming new movie “An Education” will probably be about it’s star, newcomer Carey Mulligan (“And When Did You Last See Your Father?”).
That’s fine, but it takes a director with a deft touch and an intelligent, well written script to provide a young actress like Mulligan with a star-making role.
Fortunately, all of these elements are in place here. As a result, “An Education” is an extremely pleasing and humane coming-of-age story.
The sharp script by Nick Hornby (“About a Boy”) is an adaptation of a memoir by British journalist Lynn Barber and plays out in the swinging days of early 1960s London.
Jenny (Mulligan) is a bright sixteen-year-old who lives with her stodgy parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) in a middle class neighborhood in the London suburbs.
Jenny aches for something, anything different. She’s extremely intelligent and wise beyond her years, but is still a very naïve teenager.
Her life consists of attending a stodgy private school and playing cello. She’d like to attend a prestigious university, which is also the goal of her mom and dad.
But Jenny is chafing. She’d like to see the world and take in its pleasures while she’s still young. She sees that opportunity arise when a handsome older man named David (“Peter Sarsgaard from “Orphan”) takes a shine to her.
Indeed, this wealthy businessman knows how to talk and manipulate. In spite of being twice Jenny’s age, he manages to convince her gullible parents that his intentions are honorable. Soon, Jenny and David are dating aand traipsing around London with his ne’er-do-well pals, played by Dominic Cooper (”Mamma Mia!”) and Rosamund Pike (“Doom”). They even travel to Paris.
Slowly but surely, Jenny begins to understand the truth about her sophisticated boyfriend. He’s an unscrupulous real estate investor who isn’t above occasionally stealing from old women.
Jenny’s desire for an exciting life initially trumps her moral objections. She winds up making some ill-advised decisions that threaten her educational future.
Mulligan is absolutely luminescent. It isn’t too much of a stretch to invoke the name of Audrey Hepburn when describing this appealing newcomer.
“An Education” marks the second English language film for Danish director Lone Scherfig (“Italian for Beginners”). Once again, she demonstrates a keen knack for infusing heart to a movie without sacrificing the head.
“An Education” is an affecting comic drama that derives its power from the work of a promising young actress, a reliable screenwriter and a vibrant director. (PG-13) Rating: ****1/2
* Avoid at all costs
** Only if you're bored
*** Good movie
**** Well worth your time
***** Be sure to see it