An Education 

The film version of British journalist Lynn Barber's memoir about the crash course she received in the "university of life" while studying in the early 1960s in suburban London, Danish director Lone Scherfig's movie is a seemingly benign, classily directed nostalgia trip that conceals a surprisingly tart, morally ambiguous center. The spirited, 16-year-old overachiever Jenny (Carey Mulligan) falls under the spell of David Goldman (Peter Sarsgaard), a thirtysomething entrepreneur with a purposefully vague CV who begins whisking Jenny off to glamorous concerts and art auctions. An Education elides some potentially awkward bits of business, but Barber's elemental tough-mindedness and lack of sentimentality remain constants, as does Mulligan's enchanting central performance. 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. Mulligan gives us the sense that, right before our eyes, a star is born.

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