An Education

Release Date: October 9, 2009
Limited release

Watch the Blink episode of Doctor Who. It's mandatory.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
15/82 Kelly Metz Carey Mulligan was a little too polished to be believable as a naive teen, but she was still pretty great. Alfred Molina stole every scene he was in.
26/169 Max Braden I liked the movie but Carey Mulligan was too good - she acted much older than a 16 year old, but of course placing her as a college student would negate the point of the story.

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With his success as a novelist over the last 15 years and the acclaimed reception several of those works received when adapted into films during this decade, it’s hard to imagine a screenplay by Nick Hornby lying around gathering dust. And yet that was the case for An Education, a seriocomic coming-of-age drama and period piece which back in 2007 made Variety’s list of the best unproduced British screenplays. Now, it’s 2009 and An Education arrives feted by this year’s Sundance Festival, claiming both the Audience Award and Cinematography Award in the World Cinema-Dramatic category, Much buzz and praise is already building around the female lead actress Carey Mulligan as a latter-day Audrey Hepburn giving a British spin to a Holly Golightly-ish character. Hey, if this means I get to hear less about Megan Fox this year, I’m already sold.

Hornby, who has crafted indelible male characters such as Rob Gordon, the music-loving, list-making record store employee in High Fidelity and Will Freeman, the restless bachelor living off the royalties of his father’s long-ago Christmas novelty record in About a Boy, focuses on a female protagonist this time. Inspired by excerpts from a memoir published by British journalist Lynn Barber, Hornby switches his focus from men in the throes of arrested development to a schoolgirl just waiting for her life to begin.

Set in the London of the early 1960s where the nation was caught between the legacy of WWII and still on the brink of a cultural revolution, An Education looks at Jenny (Mulligan), a too-smart-for-her-own-good teen who rebels against the path being laid out for her by her family and takes up with an American playboy twice her age (played by Peter Sarsgaard) who is of course completely and utterly wrong for her. Mulligan has worked her way up through the British acting farm system - a Masterpiece Theater here, a Jane Austen adaptation there, even an episode of Dr Who - and has a supporting role in Michael Mann’s crime film, Public Enemies. Not a bad coming out party.

If it can be said that a Yank is capable of rakish behavior (and I say why not?), then Sarsgaard is a fine choice as the louse. Emma Thompson (as a headmistress!), Rosamund Pike, Alfred Molina and Sally Hawkins are cast in supporting roles. Hopefully, Ms. Happy Go-Lucky can give Mulligan tips on how to deal with the "Next Big Thing" mantle and how to lose gracefully if you’re an acting nominee up against someone playing an illiterate Nazi.

Danish director Lone Scherfig, who contributed one of the less strictly dogmatic Dogme films with Italian for Beginners and also helmed the quirky character study Wilbur (Wants to Kill Himself) makes only her second English language film with An Education, but the lack of sentimentality of those works combined with Hornby’s own sweetly lemonic take on relationships suggests this won’t be just another "and things were never the same again after that summer" scenario. (Brett Beach/BOP)

Vital statistics for An Education
Main Cast Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina
Supporting Cast Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson, Cara Seymour, Matthew Beard, Sally Hawkins
Director Lone Scherfig
Screenwriter Nick Hornby
Distributor Sony Pictures Classics
Rating PG-13
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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