QuickTakes: “An Education”

“An Education”

Landmark E Street Cinema (Romance, Drama; PG-13)

“An Education” is not about a typical school experience. Instead, the newest indie offering from Danish director Lone Scherfig centers on “the university of life.”

The film opens in a London suburb circa 1961, where the seemingly mundane existence of British teen Jenny Miller (Carey Mulligan) consists of Latin translations, cello concerts and dreams of an Oxford acceptance letter. Everything changes with a chance run-in with David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard), a mysterious older man who offers her a ride in his vintage sports car and entrance into his inner circle that includes cocktail parties, Parisian excursions and designer garb.

Many directors have attempted and failed to chronicle the coming-of-age story, and it seems at times that “An Education” is destined to join the unfortunate group of cliché dramas with a common plot: “average girl falls for a wealthy, esteemed older man as he welcomes her into the upper crust of society.” Luckily, the film is saved by its script, penned by British author Nick Hornby. Like his quirky novels, Hornby’s screenplay sweeps the audience away with the same swiftness with which David captures Jenny, but then pauses and slows to let the scenes and the action develop.

Jenny is witnessing this world for the first time and, it seems, so are we. At a jazz club, the camera lingers on the twinkling of the chandeliers shaking to the beat of the music, and remains on the diamonds suspended on the patrons’ necks, effectively summarizing the exotic unfamiliarity of Jenny’s new surroundings.

Newcomer Carey Mulligan anchors the movie and manages to capture Jenny’s delight, captivation and hesitation perfectly. The result is an original and entertaining story that proves not all education takes place in a classroom.

“An Education” is recommended to moviegoers who enjoyed “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “The Graduate” and “High Fidelity.”

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