High school girls can be exceedingly vulnerable, especially those adolescents who possess precocious intelligence. Smart, mature girls are often bored by the jocks or top-10 overachievers. So the question remains: Where and how do they handle their romantic appetites?
How about a dalliance with an older man, and you know what kind of woes that invites, especially if the fellow is as suave and experienced as Peter Sarsgaard’s charmingly dapper lothario in “An Education,” written by Nick Hornby and directed by Lone Scherfig.
We are in England, circa 1960, where we meet David Goldman, a charmer if there ever was one. Gliding along confidently in his sports car, he meets and entices Jenny (Carey Mulligan), a 16-year-old honors student from nearby Twickenham. He’s smart and coy enough not to initiate any brash moves or untoward advances, and he impresses the usually protective but overwhelmed parents played by Alfred Molina and Sally Hawkins. Both are over their heads supervising this affair.
Shocks of recognition
“An Education” is so good, so intelligent that it invites little shocks of recognition or inspires debate. Would you rather have your daughter go drinking and carousing with a shallow jock or benefit from the companionship with an experienced and older man?
DIRECTED BY: Lone Scherfig
STARRING: Emma Thompson, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Sally Hawkins, Olivia Williams, Carey Mulligan, Cara Seymour and Matthew Beard
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
David Goldman is smart and, in his own way, sensitive to Jenny’s needs. He may be a nice guy, but he is also a cad who cannot help himself. Dismissing him as a notorious two-timer is both accurate and a bit unfair. This dimension is part of what gives the movie its penetrating and elusive intelligence.
But the real find is Mulligan, who perfectly embodies the heart and soul of her character — a girl we have all known or met. Her Jenny is smart and naive, intuitive and daring in her approach to life. She recognizes the sham strangling her narrow existence, but she is not yet ready to embrace a life enriched by a mature brand of love.
Now, this Oxford-bound senior has to grow in a new and different way. Mulligan’s portrayal is a gem. The movie is smart and wonderfully sensitive to the trauma accompanying mature, adolescent life.
Mothers: take your daughters. And don’t forget Dad.
Reach film critic Dan DiNicola at [email protected]