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Is this the best outfit in which to introduce a strong, female character to legions of young, impressionable fans about to embark on the mystical journey through gender development and personal identity?


Okay, so I finally made it to the cinema. I had been looking forward to An Education for months. I had been waiting for Carey Mulligan to be given a film of her own, since her brilliant episode of Doctor Who (Sally Sparrow is my idol) and since she made her much more experienced Pride and Prejudice co-star, Jena Malone look like a sour-faced old scragbag, just by standing next to her.

It is the story of Jenny, a 1960s schoolgirl, stifled by her father’s dreams of Oxford, and saddled with a cumbersome cello and a pretentious personality. That is, until she meets a dashing older man. It should have been the ideal first starring film role for Mulligan. And yet, it just wasn’t.

She wasn’t the only disappointment. Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay, the rest of the cast was made up of British wonders: Emma Thompson, Olivia Williams, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike among others, and an American with a peculiar English accent and a handsome face – Peter Sarsgaard – played the male lead. It should have been so good. And yet, it really wasn’t.

How much the script was hindered by the original novel, Lynn Barber’s memoir of the same name, I am not sure, but it fell so flat that the cast couldn’t begin to scrape it off the floor. Not that they tried particularly. Alfred Molina blustered. Olivia Williams needs to remember that drab is not an emotion. And Emma Thompson just wasn’t bothered. She was dry and generally unpleasant, but beyond that, there wasn’t much to be said of her character. Using her name in trailers and then giving her a cameo is a cheap trick. Having said that Rosamund Pike was lovely as the ditsy, glamorous Helen, and the times when she was onscreen were easily the high points.

On the plus side, quite early on in the design process, someone gave the Costume Department a Dorling Kindersley book about 1960s fashion, so they all looked suitably quaint.

The evening gowns were beautiful, and over all what little characterization there was in the film was fleshed out by the costumes. Again Rosamund Pike’s character stood out here, as her carousel of outfits compounded her vapidity, seemingly saying that she is an object of beauty and charm, and blithely asking what’s the harm in that.

While they don’t appear onscreen together, Olivia Williams and Rosamund Pike’s costumes, dressed as the dreary teacher and the gorgeous socialite respectively, added weight to their portrayal as the two opposing female role models in Jenny’s life.

As for Jenny, those who can’t help but hope for a montage, or at the very least some sort of revelatory moment, if a character is made over, will be disappointed. Glamourpuss Jenny’s unveiling was pretty inconsequential, Sarsgaard gasped and off they went. Mulligan did manage to fill her new clothes with teenage arrogance and then shrink within them as her bravado faded at various points throughout the film, but a lot of emphasis was placed on the fact that if you did her eyeliner just so, she looked a bit like Audrey Hepburn.

“How do I look?”

“Very good… I must say I’m amazed.”

“Magic moment” is an overused expression. I have my doubts about how “magic” a lot of these moments are. Having said that, I would argue that the second when Audrey Hepburn lifts her head to look at George Peppard from under the brim of her hat is magical. See future posts for more Audrey-related fawning.

Needless to say, without the hat it would be nothing. Such is the power of costume. Take James Bond. Anyone who says they believed Daniel Craig would be a good Bond before seeing him in the suit or the Speedos is being smug (and lying).

It might be overstating to say costumes maketh the film, but they definitely do something, and this is my attempt to find out what. Film reviewing by way of clothes, hair, makeup and the suchlike, and reverential gushing about iconic costumes will make up the majority of posts, with a few comments on the state of journalism thrown in to add mystery.

Occasionally there will be pictures if some obliging passerby seems to be channelling a particular character’s look – for that, read ‘obliging friend who lets me dress them up and take their picture’.

Please add if you think of particularly over/under/side to side -whelming costumes, or if you disagree wildly with any aspersions cast…