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Saturday, April 10, 2010

AN EDUCATION (2009)


The combination of Nick Hornsby’s savvy script, the relaxed use of an early ‘60s (pre-Swinging) London, plus a gaggle of pitch-perfect perfs go a long way in freshening up this coming-of-age story. Carey Mulligan is just great as the Oxford-bound striver who falls for a older, sophisticated conman (Peter Sarsgaard) and the exciting life he offers. The strength in the story (at least until the banal ‘reveals’ in act three) comes in watching just how far this young, intelligent girl and her hovering parents collude in making so many obviously bad choices; such willful blindness in the hunger to achieve a bit of upperclass glamour. Danish megger, Lone Scherfig, isn’t much of a technician (some of her shot choices confuse some pretty basic logistics), but she (or someone) certain lets all the actors get their bats in. And what hitters! Alfred Molina & Cara Seymore as the parents, Olivia Williams as a sympathetic teacher (note the expert art decoration on her flat), Emma Thompson as the school’s severe headmistress and Dominic Cooper as Sarsgaard’s sporty partner. Then there’s the continually amazing Mr. Sarsgaard as the charming scoundrel who unintentionally shows Mulligan that the easy path to luxury may come with hidden consequences. (But just how unintentional is it?) There seems to be little Sarsgaard can’t do on screen. And, unlike some similarly talented actors of his type & age, he can ‘carry’ a film. He may be playing a fraud, but he’s the real deal.

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