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With: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson, Cara Seymour, Matthew Beard, Sally Hawkins
Written by: Nick Hornby, based on a memoir by Lynn Barber
Directed by: Lone Scherfig
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexual content, and for smoking
Running Time: 95
Date: 01/18/2009

An Education (2009)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Too Cool for School

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For the new film An Education, Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) pens his first screenplay, based on a memoir by Lynn Barber, and teams up with former Dogme 95 director Lone Scherfig (Italian for Beginners). The result is an above average example of the coming-of-age genre.

The extraordinary Carey Mulligan stars as Jenny, a star student in 1960s London, who plays the cello, applies for colleges and tries to appease her parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour). Out of the blue, she meets the older David (Peter Sarsgaard, an American affecting a very good English accent), and they begin an exciting relationship, with visits to nightclubs and other activities that Jenny has only been able to dream about.

Alas, it's a classic "waiting for the other shoe to drop" scenario, and here there are two shoes. Refreshingly, many of the adult characters are played with weight and grace, especially Olivia Williams as Jenny's teacher and Emma Thompson as the Headmistress. Rosamund Pike and Dominic Cooper also add an interesting dimension as David's sophisticated friends, who also take the impressionable Jenny under their wings.

Scherfig is a confident director, always using mood and atmosphere to enrich her characters, but as much as I like Hornby, this material seems a little out of his league; the characters are mostly here, but the plotting is a little on the dull side. The major twists are performed as if gleaned from a Hollywood screenwriting class, a little too easy and too broad. But overall, An Education is a worthy effort.

Last year's multi-award winner Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky) appears in a small role.

DVD Details: Sony Pictures Classics released the DVD in 2010, just after Oscar time. It comes with deleted scenes, a commentary track with Scherfig, Mulligan, and Sarsgaard, a making-of featurette, and a "red carpet" featurette.

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