Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quick Look: An Education (2009)

Carey Mulligan is almost unbelievably cute in the lead role of An Education, but that’s hardly the only good reason that so many critics and Oscar prognosticators have fallen in love with the film. On the one hand, it’s just a fairly routine coming-of-age story about a 16-year-old girl learning about life and love. On the other hand, it’s a very well done version of it. Mulligan, who I was surprised to learn is actually 24, plays the part with grace and charm and, in Jenny, she’s given a great character to play. She’s carefully poised with superficial depth and sophistication masking surprising emotional depth yet childishness. Mulligan’s also blessed with amazing support from an excellent cast that includes Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper, Olivia Williams, and Emma Thompson, who all perform admirably. Sally Hawkins, so good in last year’s Happy-Go-Lucky, turns up for one scene that’s so emotionally involving, and well done, I wished she could have been given more to do. Director Lone Scherfig keeps the film moving at a brisk pace, hitting all the right notes with the help of frequently beautiful cinematography by John de Borman and a charming screenplay by Nick Hornby, capably adapted from Lynn Barber’s memoir. The early-60s time period is evoked with just-so production design which matches the matter-of fact charm that runs through the film. Likewise, the music is a mix of period songs and original songs that blend seamlessly with each other and with the nimble score. With all of this going for it, the movie should be really great, right? I wish. It’s almost there. In the end, the movie is a very enjoyable experience, light and fun with a handful of spiky dramatic moments, but it doesn’t stick. The movie’s impact seemed to be evaporating as I crossed the theater’s lobby, but, in the days since I have seen it, I’ve felt a growing desire to see it again. The movie’s impact might not be long-lasting, but it is still well worth feeling.

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