Saturday, August 2, 2014

Educating Rita

Educating Rita; tragicomedy, UK / Ireland, 1983; D: Lewis Gilbert, S: Julie Walters, Michael Caine, Michael Williams
The 26-year old hairdresser Rita wants to complete her education and pass exams in literature before having a baby, and thus hires Frank Bryant, an alcoholic university professor, to educate her. Even though she is clumsy and immature at first, Frank realizes she is a very honest soul and acquaints her with Ibsen, Chekhov, Forster and others. As months pass by, Rita leaves her boyfriend Denny and finds a new apartment. The now divorced Frank falls in love with Rita, but they both know they cannot be together. In the end, Rita passes her exams while Frank leaves to lecture in another country.

A wonderful unassuming little film, "Educating Rita" is an excellent character comedy that is refreshingly built on human relationships and quiet observations, and not on loud "attention grabbers" or melodramatic excess. The emotions and dramatic conclusions arrive subtly and swiftly - Rita changes with years, evident not only in the change of her hair and voice, but also by the way she reacts - and the serious theme of a woman who wants to overcome her limitations in society and achieve something more with her life is so unobtrusive that it went over some viewers' heads, whereas Willy Russell's screenplay is packed with delicious dialogues and inspired scenes (the alcoholic Frank hides his drink in the book shelf, behind the novel "The Lost Weekend" (!); "Dr. Bryant, I don't think you're listening to me." - "Mr. Collins, I don't think you are saying anything to me"; Rita gives Frank a pen as a present, that is engraved with the words "Must only be used for poetry"). Finally, the two leading actors, Michael Caine and Julie Walters, are simply genuine and fantastic, and thus probably gave the roles of a lifetime, rightfully both winning a BAFTA. A few weaknesses - an occasionally staged scene; the pointless subplot of Rita's friend trying to commit suicide; the slightly weak last 20 minutes of the storyline; the 'peculiar' albeit emotional synthesiser music - are compensated thanks to the above mentioned virtues, whereas the ending is inherently one of the most beautiful essays about Platonic love ever.


1 comment:

DS said...

A watchable film but it does tend to rely on stereotypes. The soundtrack dates the film more than the clothes, it sounds like outtakes from a discontinued Rick Wakeman album.