To be honest, we didn't really have that much in common. We broke up pretty damn quick when he realised I wasn't planning on f*cking him in the first few months. Jeez! I was 15. I was devastated for a while. Stupid boys. They make you cry. Anyways again..... There is a point to this ramble about the first time a boy broke my heart.
At its surface that is what An Education is about. In this little British film, 16 (almost 17) year old Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is swept off her feet by 30 something year old David (Peter Saarsgard) when he rescues her and her cello from a downpour in early 1960's London. He is sophisticated, witty & exciting and shows Jenny a world that she had coveted for so long. A world of art, culture, jazz, and all the things that Jenny dreams about as she is studying to ensure that she is accepted into Oxford.
But this is more than just a story of first love and loss. This is pre-swinging London, before the Beatles, before the sexual revolution and prior to the feminist movement. Jenny is studying hard to get into Oxford - she participates in all the right activities - not because she wants to but because that is what must be done. But for what cause? Is Oxford the dream of Jenny, or that of her father (Alfred Molina)? Jenny seems more interested in listening to French music, reading books for enjoyment and dreaming of a visit to Paris but at first is content to go along with this plan.
David and his friends introduce her to a world so far beyond her dreams, and Jenny is swept along in the romance and mystery of it all. She dazzles her school friends with gifts and tales of fine dining and jazz clubs. She starts to question her future and wonders if Oxford is for her. She is so taken up with David and the life he is introducing to her, that when she discovers some of the more unsavory aspects of his business dealings, she accepts it with very few questions.
This little movie is generating serious Oscar buzz for relative unknown Carey Mulligan. She is luminous and breathtaking and if I am being honest, too thin. I am definitely not alone in saying that she gives off an Audrey Hepburn vibe. She lights up the screen and should expect to hear her name called on numerous occasions during Award Season. Her portrayal of the naive young Jenny is flawless, and deserves massive kudos for holding her own against Oscar winner Emma Thompson, whose 10 minutes of screen time as the insightful school headmistress are amazing as always.
Peter Saarsgard was also great. He has a difficult role – playing a man in his 30’s who is in effect seducing a teenager. But it never has that “icky’ feel to it. He comes across as truly thrilled to be opening Jenny’s eyes to the world beyond her quiet suburban life, rather than the nefarious older man who has wicked intentions. I loved how easily David was able to win over Jenny’s parents and convince them that unchaperoned overnight trips are perfectly acceptable.
Rosamund Pike was fantastic as the street smart, although not particularly book smart girlfriend of Sarsgaard's business partner Dominic Cooper. She also serves in the education of Jenny, aiding in her physical transformation from awkward Catholic schoolgirl to elegant arm candy. Olivia Williams is also impressive as Jenny’s dowdy teacher who is determined to ensure that her star student stops making poor choices. The costumes were phenomenal. Loved the dresses and hats and purses and heels. Oh and David has an amazing ride. I would have gotten in the car with him!
By the end of the movie, Jenny is only a little older, but she is infinitely wiser. Gone is the wide-eyed innocent schoolgirl that we see in the opening scenes of the movie. She is ready to tackle what life has in store for her. Something that sadly she would not have been able to do without the education given to her by the cad David.
I loved this movie. Go and see it. Seriously. Now.