Nick Hornby’s story would have worked far better as a short story than as a feature length movie. The screenplay was full of sharp dialogue and witty one-liners. However, much of the action in this story was internal within Jenny which could benefit from expository writing. The role of Jenny put a lot of pressure on Carey Mulligan to deliver a performance that could resonate the naive, wide-eyed precociousness and eventually the disillusionment Jenny felt. Mulligan achieves the former by being as cute as a button and giving an impassioned speech to the headmistress of her school, brilliantly played by Emma Thompson. As we sit, watching Jenny gloat about the excitement in her life, we cringe because we know how wrong she is (given that we are above a certain age) and yet we also wish she was right. By the end of the movie, the disillusioned Jenny says “I feel older, but not wiser.” Indeed, growing up, causes you to, for one reason or another, abandon your pipe dreams and exit the world of fancy. Likewise, being thrust out of the world of fancy ages you immediately. This may not make you wiser, because it only exposes all that you didn’t know before. However, part of education is acknowledging how little you know. Ironically, as one gets wiser, one feels less wise.
The final outcome cannot be blamed entirely on the petulance of youth, of course. It is the responsibility of parents to foster growth, maturity and aging without completely quashing one’s spirits. Jenny’s father, hilariously portrayed by Alfred Molina, had failed her in this regard, partly as a product of the times and partly because he was projecting his own desires and fancies onto Jenny.
The theme of fancy and impracticality run deep through the movie and are embodied by the merry group of friends consisting of Peter Sarsgaard, Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike. Nick Hornby, the screenwriter, is careful not to place all the blame on this lifestyle and even glamorizes it through to the end. The object of this film is not to judge the wild, fancy, free attitude but rather to point out its role in coming-of-age and reaching a certain level of education.