Meryl Streep is probably the only actress in the race who is above 40. This is a young woman’s year, to be sure. Be sure to check out Guy Lodge’s rundown of the Best Actor Under 30 and his coverage of the young women currently playing even younger women on screen.¬†¬† There is no denying Carey Mulligan’s ascent, however.
The critics are especially liking Mulligan (although, at this point, who DOESN’T?). High praise indeed from the Village Voice’s Scott Foundas and Slant’s Ed Gonzales.
Scott Foundas, the Village Voice:
Twenty-two when the film was shot, with only a handful of minor movie and television appearances behind her, Mulligan doesn’t get an entrance here on par with, say, Audrey Hepburn’s regal procession in Roman Holiday or Jean Seberg’s seaside frolic in Otto Preminger’s Bonjour Tristesse‚Äîbut it doesn’t take long for her to cast the same sort of beguiling spell. A petite, round-faced brunette with dimpled cheeks and a darting, fiercely intelligent gaze, Mulligan is on-screen for nearly every frame of An Education, and in those 90-odd minutes, her Jenny seems to transform before us, from girlish insouciance to womanly self-confidence, from intellectual posturing to possessing a finely honed sense of personal taste. Playing a character who is herself a rare bloom in a field of mediocrity, Mulligan has a star quality they can’t teach in acting school.
Ed Gonzales Ryan Stewart, Slant:
Mulligan’s performance is a thing of understated beauty, instinctively attuned to that headstrong-but-full-hearted quality common to the most aware teenagers, alight with choices in emotional keys both unexpected and resonant, and ultimately successful enough on its own terms to render superfluous the associative endorsement that Scherfig offers by way of a predictable makeover-revelation moment, in which the frumpy, pale-faced student is reintroduced as a radiant Holly GoLightly. That Mulligan’s excess of talent occasionally throws light onto groaningly conventional aspects of Education‘s storyline is perhaps inevitable, though noticeable, particularly in scenes opposite her stiff upper-lip father (Alfred Molina) and mother (Cara Seymour) which sway unpredictably from broad comedy to indulgent melodrama. Theirs is almost a self-contained B-story unaffected by the main action.
Marshall Fine, Hollywood and Fine, writes:
If the eventual destination of this story seems preordained, the journey itself is both captivating and compelling. Mulligan, with her control and slight hauteur, still evinces the suppressed glee of a young person finally allowed to act like the adult she‚Äôs always felt herself to be. She also captures the withering contempt that her parents bring out in her, because they seem both unutterably square and totally out of tune with how she sees herself. To them, she‚Äôs still their little girl; she, however, has lost¬†that little girl‚Äôs awe for her parents, suddenly seeing only their flaws and shortcomings.