Nothing is more boring than when an author says ‘Oh, you should see what goes on in real life. I’ve only hinted at it in my (extremely over the top) fiction, but doing my research I discovered it’s MUCH better/worse/more depraved/whatever.’
I decided to write about a twelve year-old who’s really good at something and becomes a recognised star in her field. And as the series develops, another character also gets a go at becoming an overnight sensation. It’s fiction. I’m totally making it up as I go along, because that’s what I do for a living and it’s really, really fun. But a reviewer recently said that you have to ‘suspend a certain amount of disbelief’ and the more I look into it, the more I’m coming to the conclusion that actually, you don’t. (I noticed that the same reviewer had just described Eoin Colfer’s newest addition to the Hitchiker’s Guide ‘trilogy’ which, if I’m not mistaken, includes VOGONS and TWIN-HEADED BETELGEUSIANS. No mention of disbelief suspension there. But I digress.)
I went to the London premiere of An Education this week – as you do, dah-ling – and saw Carey Mulligan give the performance that has got everyone in the film world calling her the new Audrey Hepburn (rightly), and has marked the start of what will be a stratospheric film career. Go and see her in this one, if you possibly can, but don’t worry if you can’t. She’ll be in Wall Street 2 next year, and every other movie they can shoehorn her into for the foreseeable future. And you won’t be disappointed.
Carey is 24 now, but was 22 when she made An Education, playing a 16 year-old schoolgirl attracted by the lifestyle of a shady older man. Before that, her claims to fame were Kitty in Pride and Prejudice, parts in Bleak House and Doctor Who, and Nina in The Seagull on Broadway last year. OK, that was pretty incredible and probably her biggest highlight so far, but it was a long way away, and not many of us got to see it.
She’s in every scene of An Education, acting alongside Dominic Cooper being sexy, Rosamund Pike being breathtakingly beautiful, Emma Thompson being sharp, mature, brittle and kind, and Alfred Molina being bluff, angry and frustrated. And in every scene you’re looking at Carey, at her knowing eyes and mobile, sardonic lips, and wondering what she’s going to think next, and wanting more.
I’d have enjoyed the film anyway. It’s got the early sixties, when my parents were growing up, getting married and having me. It’s got VERY BEAUTIFUL CLOTHES, especially when worn by Rosamund Pike or Carey, and I never have a problem with that. It’s got girls wanting to go to Oxford, then not wanting to go, then wondering why they should or shouldn’t go, and wanting to go to Paris, wear black, become an existentialist and say nothing. It’s got funny bits. It’s got characters with layer after layer of vulnerability and hope and regret. And did I mention the clothes?
But more than anything, it’s got a girl you won’t remember seeing before becoming a bona fide movie star in front of your very eyes.
I watched her afterwards, when the crowds had gone, walking back through a half-deserted Leicester Square with her friends (who by the way adore her because on top of everything else she’s a Very Nice Girl), in her designer frock and heels, and nobody was looking, apart from me. They were just a group of girls, going out together, laughing.
She’s not going to have that for much longer. She’s already papped in New York on a regular basis as she travels around with her new boyfriend, Shia LaBoef. Soon it will be worldwide. Especially after the magazine shoots she’s booked for, the Anna Wintour thumbs up, and the other movies she’s got coming out soon.
Six years ago, she was a boarder at Woldingham school, applying to drama school and getting turned down. It may take slightly longer than it does in my books, but it can happen. I’ll always remember when I stood in Leicester Square and watched that moment when it was about to start.