• Retrospective: Educating Rita (1983)

    From David N. Butterworth@21:1/5 to All on Mon Apr 17 00:46:03 2017
    A film review by David N. Butterworth
    Copyright 2017 David N. Butterworth

    **1/2 (out of ****)

    Time has not been kind to "Educating Rita." What was once--in 1983--a
    charming and often hilarious tale about a British working-class
    hairdresser's efforts to better herself by enrolling in an Open University course now feels like a sudsy, operatic, and mostly obvious affair, with
    little to get excited about bar a career-making performance from Julie
    Walters, reprising the title role she performed on the London stage.
    Michael Caine plays her whisky-impaired English professor, recent divorcee Frank Bryant, whom Rita ("after Rita Mae Brown"; her given name is Susan)
    picks to tutor her despite his futile attempts to dissuade her. Willy
    Russell's stagy romantic comedy garnered Oscar nods for both performers, as well as one for the playwright himself (back when it was called "Best
    Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium") but the zingers tend to be of the "What's that book you're reading, love?" "Somerset
    Maugham, 'Of Human Bondage.'" "Oh, my husband's got loads of books like
    that" type. Watchable for, if nothing else, Walters' ebullient turn (and
    some rad 80s styles; Caine's alcoholic academic is reduced to embarrassing reaction shots), "Educating Rita" is disappointingly droll some two dozen
    years on. The only (suspect) knowledge you're likely to glean from Lewis Gilbert's cute if unremarkable film is that assonance means getting the
    rhyme wrong.

    David N. Butterworth

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