Everything you’ve heard about Carey Mulligan’s star-making turn is true.
As bright, ambitious, 16-year-old Jenny, whisked from classroom and dull Twickenham semi into the brittle glamour of West End nightclubs and jaunts to Paris by urbane 30-ish playboy David (Peter Sarsgaard), she’s an unfailing pleasure to watch.
On screen virtually throughout, Mulligan gives an impressively self-assured performance as Jenny’s initial bemusement at David’s attentions shifts into delight at her newfound double life.
As her seducer, Sarsgaard is boyish and witty enough to avoid creepiness, and there’s great support from Alfred Molina as Jenny’s hopelessly-out- of-his-depth dad and Rosamund Pike as David’s friend Danny’s ditsy blonde girlfriend (“In about 50 years, nobody will speak Latin, probably. Not even Latin people”).
Danish director Lone Scherfig paints a lovingly detailed picture of early-’60s England with its long-held moralities about to be shaken: Morris Travellers, Francophile girls like Jenny obsessed with Camus and Juliette Greco…
Is it a touch too innocuous? There’s a sustained anger in Lynn Barber’s memoir that’s missing in this adaptation. The bedroom episode between David and Jenny is skated over lightly; darker themes of sexual exploitation and betrayal are smoothed out by the gentle social comedy. We never feel Jenny’s going to suffer lasting harm.
Fresh and charming all the same – and in Mulligan, one of the best British breakouts of recent years.
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