“An Education”
 
            Jenny (Carey Mulligan) seems to be a typical British schoolgirl of the early 1960’s:  wear the uniform, do your Latin homework, giggle with your girlfriends, spar occasionally with your parents.  No real serious rebellion, other than sneaking a cigarette and secretly listening to French cabaret singers on vinyl records.  Her father (Alfred Molina) desperately wants her to get a scholarship to Oxford .  Fortunately for her, she is smart enough to make the grades; it’s a matter of consistently applying herself.  So far, she hasn’t really had any reason not to:  until she meets David (Peter Sarsgaard). 
            David is a dashing young man who drives a fancy sports car, and first offers her cello a ride, because it was raining, and charms the teenager enough for her to actually get in with her cello.  He seems so debonair and sophisticated----unlike the awkward boys her age, still riding bicycles and uncertain what to say next.  David even charms her parents into letting him take her out---to a classical concert, with his Aunt, you know.  But his Aunt was nowhere to be found---instead, David introduces Jenny to his running buddy, Danny (Dominic Cooper), and his glittery, worldly-wise girlfriend, Helen (Rosamund Pike).  What follows could only be described as a whirlwind courtship; Jenny is enthralled by the night clubs, and the dog races, and the trip to Oxford (David told her parents that he wanted to introduce their daughter to his old literature professor, C.S. Lewis).  David even talks her parents into letting him take her to Paris (along with aforementioned fictional Aunt).
            Jenny is swept off her feet by this dashing young man who seems to have little to do other than think of ways to charm her and romance her.  Of course she’s flattered.  Who wouldn’t be?  And, turning 17 soon (don’t worry, the actress is actually 24), she’d always thought that she’d like to give herself away, the first time, to someone debonair and caring, and she hardly even notices the little bumps along the way.  Once, when David and Danny go into a house together to inquire about the “For Sale” sign, they rudely insist that the girls find something else to do.  And then, when the men come running out with a framed painting, they insist on leaving quickly, as if someone might be after them.  There’s another clue, as well, when David stops to meet a large black family on the sidewalk, and let them in to their new flat in a small apartment building.  He leaves her in the car, but later explains to her that part of the way he makes money is to watch the white families flee the other apartments in the building, and then he goes in and buys them all below market.  This gives her pause, but not enough.  She drops out of school to accept his breathless marriage proposal.  She is surprised that her father doesn’t put up more of a fuss, but David’s charmed him, as well, and her proprietary Papa also acts as if this shortens his obligation to provide for her, as if the only point of raising her was to marry her off, and why bother with university if that can be achieved without it?
Of course, once the alarm bells in her head start clanging loudly enough for her to notice, there are certain things that can’t be undone.  But, even she has to admit, it’s been “An Education.”
            Carey Mulligan is sensational in this role---practically Audrey Hepburn-ish in a “My Fair Lady” kind of transformation:  huge age difference, naďve girl learns about the world, we’re as beguiled with her as he is.  She deservedly has received some recognition for this performance.  This is a little gem of a film that won’t be obscure for long.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas