2009 // UK // Lone Scherfig // November 12, 2009 // Theatrical Print (Landmark Tivoli Theater)
An Education is a fairly conventional coming-of-age-story that is enlivened and elevated by abundant, magnificent acting. To be sure, Nick Hornby's screenplay boasts plenty of cheek and a canny, understated awareness of its early 1960s British setting. Meanwhile, director Lone Scherfig operates in a mode that is comfortable with melodrama and also assured enough to toss aside its emotional excesses. Scherfig permits her narrative's most pivotal developments to unfold off-screen, but her commanding storytelling ensures that the film never misses a beat. Everything we need to know is up there. That said, An Education would probably have been nothing more than an old story--girl falls for charming cad, girl gets burned, girl moves on--told quite well. It would have, that is, if not for a plethora of dazzling performances. Carey Mulligan is almost spookily well-cast as ambitious and dissatisfied teen Jenny, but equally vital are Peter Sarsgaard in a challenging role as her creepy, oddly vulnerable, and (much) older paramour, and an engrossing Alfred Molina, proving yet again that his best characters are usually well-meaning boobs. Heck, Rosamund Pike deserves praise for lending texture to her ditsy playgirl almost entirely through sideways glances and glum expressions.