The story of young innocuous girl being charmed and seduced by a smooth-talking older man is not a new one. This time the scene is a1961 London suburb, the innocent girl is a smart schoolgirl named Jenny (Carey Mulligan) and the smooth-talker is a thirty-five-year-old man named David (Peter Sarsgaard). She has dreams of Oxford, he went to what he refers to as the “University of Life.” When their paths cross, the plot takes a natural path with the culture-starved Jenny falling into the fast-paced, hedonistic lifestyle of David and his friends. This was a time when men were men and women went to college merely as a back-up plan to finding a husband. Though her parents are overbearing and restrictive on every other part of her life, they do everything but offer Jenny up with a dowry to the dashing David.
Written by Nick Hornby (About A Boy, High Fidelity) the movie is a study in dialogue, expressions, and body language. Both Peter Sarsgaard and Carey Mulligan fit their roles flawlessly, but in reality there is only Carey. Without the perfect Jenny, the entire piece would have fallen apart. The fresh-faced newcomer Mulligan personifies this character so completely that is is easy to forget she isn’t actually a young suburban deviant.
The film is an aesthetically pleasing one with a beautiful weekend jaunt to Paris full of sweeping cinematography of the city. The period piece wardrobe designed by Odile Dicks-Mireaux created the elegance of the sixties with lovely enchantment. From the shift dresses to the sunglasses and updos, Jenny and David’s sophisticated friend Helen (Rosamund Pike) are like Mad Men across the pond.
An Education really does exemplify the coming-of-age tale. Differentiating between the education one can gain in school and the cultural education that music, film, and traveling can provide, the message rings clear with me that only with the combination of these two educations is life worth living.