Every so often, an unknown actor emerges onto the screen and takes our breath away. Carey Mulligan is one such actor whose brilliant performance in “An Education” gives birth to a rising star.
In her first major role, Mulligan plays Jenny, a 16-year-old A-student bound for Oxford. That is, until she meets the smooth-talking, wildly handsome David (Peter Sarsgaard), who’s twice her age. Longing for a life outside Twickenham, England, and away from her stodgy parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour), Jenny finds David just the ticket. He’s sophisticated, hangs with glamorous people and wants to take her to Paris.
This guy is so slick that he gets her parents to agree to the trip.
When Jenny discovers that David’s a con man and a thief, she ponders returning to plan A but comes to the realization that she’s hooked on his intoxicating lifestyle. Her blind trust and naiveté have driven her down a path of painful regret, but in the end she takes stock in the valuable lesson learned.
Director Lone Scherfig (“Italian for Beginners”) has concocted a magical movie based on a memoir by British journalist Lynn Barber. Nick Hornby (“About a Boy”) scores big with a savvy and emotionally textured script. The acting is flawless. Sarsgaard is at his best in this role as the deceptive and entirely irresistible David. Emma Thompson, who’s popping up everywhere these days in cameos (i.e.”Pirate Radio”), is superb as the stern headmistress who tells Jenny that she “seems to be old and wise.”
And that’s exactly how Mulligan portrays the pixie/woman that dichotomizes Jenny’s persona. She comes off so much smarter than her parents and yet so childlike when the walls come crashing down around her.
She makes us believe in every aspect of her character with the charisma of a seasoned actor. This is an Oscar-worthy performance.
“An Education” is just that. It takes us on a journey of self-discovery and has us leaving the theater feeling as though we’ve been somewhere important.
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