It’s a pretty exciting thing watching a fresh face in a film, and in An Education, Carey Mulligan gives the kind of performance that announces herself as this year’s “it” girl.
Starring as Jenny in a coming-of-age romantic drama written by the British novelist Nick Hornby, Mulligan is the kind of actress who commands your attention first because she’s adorable and then because her acting appears so effortless and natural.
She’s this year’s Ellen Page or Marion Cotillard, or to borrow an oft-heard comparison, she’s the new Audrey Hepburn.
Expect Mulligan to get a lot of love this awards season and be a frequent presence on red carpets.
One day, Jenny meets David (Peter Sarsgaard), a sophisticated older man who shows her a much more exciting life than the one she knows. David is like the answer to Jenny’s prayers, and he’s everything she thought she’d never find.
But is he too good to be true?
The title of the film pretty much tells you that Jenny will learn a pretty big lesson by the time everything’s over, but it’s the journey here that’s most important, not the resolution.
At one point she tells a teacher, “I feel old, but not very wise,” for despite acting like a grownup among David and his friends, she’s still very young and has a lot more to learn.
Mulligan is so charming, so lovely, that she helps to cover over those predictable elements of the plot. You know where everything’s going, but you’ve so invested yourself in Jenny that when she learns the truth about David, you’re just as heartbroken as she is.
Mulligan’s performance is matched by nearly everyone else in the cast — Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Emma Thompson, et al. — and Hornby’s screenplay is simple (though not simplistic) and elegantly written.
An Education is worth seeing for the acting and the engaging story, but mostly for Mulligan’s wonderful performance. I look forward to seeing her in more roles very soon.
An Education gets a B+ from me.