Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

2. Carey Mulligan as Jenny in An Education

It's 1961 in pre-swinging London, and Jenny is already a local star: the smartest, most popular and self-possessed 16-year-old at her elite girls' school. In the acting class of 2009, Mulligan, 24, has been widely acclaimed Most Likely to Succeed, and an Oscar nomination for Best Actress seems assured. A pop symphony of womanly poise (her rich cello voice) and girlish exuberance (the dimples), Mulligan worked her way up through supporting roles in films, TV series and stage work, including an indelible Nina in a London and Broadway revival of The Seagull. As Jenny in Nick Hornby's adaptation of the Lynn Barber memoir, she's a precocious virgin ripe for plucking by a worldly fellow twice her age. The roue is smitten and seduced, and why not? Everyone in the audience is too.