An Education (2009)

(On Cable TV, July 2016) It doesn’t reflect well on me, but I’ve long believed that Carey Mulligan is one of the most profoundly uninteresting thespian working at the moment. I don’t find her likable, attractive or impressive—most of her roles could have been played just as well by other actresses, and she doesn’t seem to have any innate distinction to her on-screen persona. But here comes An Education to make me question that long-held loathing: Mulligan is the clear protagonist of the movie, and she more than manages to be interesting, likable, attractive (a flattering haircut helps) and impressive as a young woman undergoing real-life schooling in 1960s England. Going from grade-A student to dropout under the influence of a conman, Mulligan portrays the withering innocence and mounting maturity of her character, and hold her own against capable actors such as Peter Sarsgaard (as the charming antagonist) and Alfred Molina (as a father who cares a lot). It’s not a complicated story, nor much of an original one, but it works well at what it tries to do, and ends up considerably more captivating than it looks on paper. An Education is a small surprise, not the least of them being Mulligan’s unexpectedly compelling performance.

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