Who's In It: Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson, Cara Seymour, Matthew Beard, Sally Hawkins
The Basics: Back when becoming a grown-up was something people aspired to instead of shunned in favor of endless dumb adolescence, Lynn Barber lived the story that became this movie. She was a precocious, studious British schoolgirl (here played by Carey Mulligan) in the early 1960s who dreamed of being sophisticated, smoking cigarettes, wearing black clothes and living in Paris. In other words, she was the perfect target for an older, charming man (Peter Sarsgaard) who took her to art auctions, classical concerts, fancy restaurants and Post-Virginity-Land
What's The Deal: It doesn't hurt that this movie's action takes place in the most visually appealing decade of 20th century England. It immerses you in a vintage world where everything is a big dramatic dichotomy--the rainy, quiet world of English schoolgirls mashed up with the urgent cultural imperative of Swinging Everywhere Else. So all the images on screen are either emphatically, sleekly cool or as cozy as a cup of tea by the fire. It feels almost like the movie is cheating, throwing all kinds of attractive Anglophile/Francophile stuff at you to make you fall for it, just like the older seducer. And it makes nearly getting your life ruined by a smarmy interloper seem kind of adorable. I should probably have more a problem with that than I do, but I'm a sucker for 50-year-old sports cars with the steering wheel on the right side.
What's Right About It: Nick Hornby's screenplay is funny and sweet and 1000 percent English in that catnip-to-American-audiences way he's so good at already. It won't really challenge your ideas about anything and if you're young and impressionable it will pretty much give you permission to go out and be reckless and think you'll get away with it. But since it's actually more of a nostalgia trip for old people anyway, none of that other stuff matters too much.
Prepare To Be Charmed By: Everybody, but especially Mulligan. She's most known to American audiences thanks to Pride and Prejudice and the recent Bleak House miniseries. But this is her first big starring role and she's got 16-year-old yearning down cold. You'd never know she's 24.
How Much Emma Thompson You Get: Not a lot, but she makes a perfectly stern big-haired headmistress. All scoldy and withering the way you like her.