| This spirited coming-of age picture is about a teenage girl in suburban London whose sheltered existence is drastically altered when a dashing playboy enters her life. Jenny (Carey Mulligan in a star-making turn) is a very bright schoolgirl approaching her 17th birthday. Her goal is to get into Oxford University.
She plays the cello in a youth orchestra. After a rehearsal, she accepts a ride from a handsome stranger driving a maroon sports car during a heavy rainstorm. His name is David (Peter Sarsgaard from "Shattered Glass" and "Kinsey"). He is nearly twice her age and wants to rob the cradle. He is suave, debonair and a fast talker.
David is able to persuade Jenny's parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) to permit her to go to a classical concert with supper afterward on a Friday night. He is able to wrap the impressionable and naïve Jenny around his little finger.
Her morals get loose and she develops bad habits that include smoking and drinking. He gives her a taste of adult life that she will not soon forget. She even comments that everything in her life was boring before she was seduced by David's charms. It appears she has thrown her whole life away on one romantic fling.
The ensemble acting comes up all aces. Mulligan is spectacular, reminding audiences of a young Audrey Hepburn. Molina provides strong support as the hoodwinked father.
The movie's strengths also include extraordinary costumes, 1960s period touches in production design, an exemplary soundtrack and top drawer cinematography. The whirlwind courtship has a creepy side, but it is easy to see how Jenny could get caught up by all the lavish attention.
The scenic backgrounds include the Oxford campus and familiar landmarks in Paris. The implied sex and the loss of virginity are handled discreetly off camera. The movie purposely shrouds David's background in secrecy and tells the story from Jenny's fresh perspective. It also gives an accurate assessment of the limited liberating opportunities for women in the early 1960s.
The popular song "This Girl is a Woman Now" by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap comes closest to the accelerated maturation process resulting from this eye-opening learning experience.
This cinematic gem is an ironclad lock to be nominated for best picture of the year. Its winning pedigree starts with Danish-born female director Lone Scherfig ("Italian for Beginners" and "Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself"), screenwriter Nick Hornby ("High Fidelity" and "About a Boy") and Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson ("Stranger Than Fiction," "Love Actually," "Sense and Sensibility" and "The Remains of the Day") in a supporting role as the school's headmistress. Oscar prognosticators put this movie on the radar after it won the audience choice and cinematography awards on the world cinema side at the Sundance Film Festival.
Now showing exclusively at AMC Studio 30, the Rio and Cinemark Palace on the Plaza.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"