Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexual content, and for smoking, 95 minutes
Smart, touching "An Education"
"An Education" is an intelligent, touching coming-of-age British dramedy with superb performances that could see awards consideration in the near future. Inspired by true events, "An Education" is all about making the right choices at the right time, sometimes before its too late. It's also a poignant reminder that it's not too early for teenagers and young folks to carefully consider their career paths before they go down the wrong road.
In the early 1960's, sixteen year old Jenny Mellor (Carey Mulligan) lives with her parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) in the London suburb of Twickenham. On her father's wishes, everything that Jenny does is in the sole pursuit of being accepted into Oxford, as he wants her to have a better life than he. Jenny is bright, pretty, hard working but also naturally gifted.
Jenny's life changes after she meets David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard), a man over twice her age. David goes out of his way to show Jenny and her family that his interest in her is not improper and that he wants to expose her to cultural activities which she enjoys. Jenny quickly gets accustomed to the life to which David and his constant companions, Danny (Dominic Cooper) and Helen (Rosamund Pike), have shown her and Jenny and David's relationship evenutally turns romantic. However, Jenny has to decide if her life with David is worth forgoing her plans of higher eduction at Oxford.
"An Education" is an affecting, relevant coming-of-age movie about the choices we make early on in life. Danish director Lone Scherfig helms a script by Nick Hornby ("Fever Pitch") that's actually based on autobiographical events of British journalist Lynn Barber, whose memoir is the inspiration for the film. Scherfig elicits sensitive, tender performances from the cast, especially Sarsgaard as Jenny's older romantic interest.
But it's young British actress Mulligan who is a revelation as Jenny, a teenager who gets an education in real life; she yearns for romance but also wants to do the right thing. Character actor Molina ("Spider-Man 2") contributes an outstanding supporting performance as Jenny's protective father, who's also living vicariously through his daughter and wants the best for her. Watch for Olivia Williams ("Dollhouse") and Oscar-winner Emma Thompson in small but key roles as Jenny's teacher and principal, respectively.
Most important are the director and script's fair treatment of the main character; it doesn't look down on her but does its best to show Jenny has good intentions in what she does. The initial chapters are a bit too leisurely, and it takes too much time to develop the story, but Mulligan and Sarsgaard are both engaging actors that you want to spend time with. You'll see a couple of plot twists coming if you play close attention, but Mulligan's expressions when she discovers the truth about David is one of the film's highight.
The ending of "An Education" is predictable but uplifting and an appropriate test that Jenny passes with flying colors. Both Mulligan and Molina are possible Oscar nominees for their fine, textured performances. "An Education" is an enjoyable experience and comes recommended as a better choice than vampires or werewolves this weekend.