Sarsgaard gives Mulligan 'An Education' in love, life

By Michael Richter

No one pulls off the coming of age tale quite like the British film industry, and Lone Scherfig’s “An Education” ranks among the best. The film was originally released in October after premiering at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. After its Best Picture nomination at this year’s Academy Awards, the fine people at Sony Entertainment decided to see what they could get out of a re-release. Jenny, played by Oscar nominated actress Carey Mulligan, is a 16-year-old British schoolgirl who is tired of her predictable suburban life. Like all adolescents, she is tired of her parents’ expectations and can’t wait to get out into the world, where the wonders of music, fine dining, and sexual adventure await. So when the witty, thirty-something David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard) offers her a ride home from school, Jenny happily abandons her monotonous life in favor of something more exciting.

Once David manages to win over Jenny’s conservative parents, he introduces her to the world she always dreamed about. They spend their time going to classical music concerts and cavorting with London’s finest at late-night cafes. David also introduces her to his friends Danny (Dominic Cooper) and his girlfriend Helen (Rosamund Pike), who offer a similar aura of sophistication and spontaneity. The group makes her forget about traditional education and shows her what real living is about.

For her seventeenth birthday, David takes Jenny to Paris for a weekend of artistic discovery, haute cuisine, and disappointing sex. After the trip, Jenny starts to see the reality of her situation. She faces the choice of pursuing her promising academic career at Oxford, or leaving it all for her new life with the bon vivants. Despite the predictability of this situation, the movie pulls it off very well.

“An Education” features strong performances throughout. Aside from Carey Mulligan’s Oscar turn, Peter Sarsgaard is very impressive as the mature and sophisticated love interest. The ensemble cast also succeeds in making the minor characters memorable, with well-known actors Alfred Molina, Cara Seymour and Emma Thompson all putting in convincing performances.

Danish director Lone Scherfig also succeeds in creating the atmosphere of post-war London. Set in 1961, the movie takes place just before all the swinging and Beatles music transformed British culture. The scenery, along with the older characters, portray a very strict, old-fashioned society that sets the stage for the more free-spirited group of friends that take over Jenny’s life. The film was also shot on location in London and Paris, which gives the movie a very authentic feel.

If you have any interest in coming of age stories, period pieces or escaping your own life’s predictability, “An Education” is a must see. The film is now playing at the Grandview.