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Educating Rita (1983)

In London, twenty-seven year-old hairdresser Rita decides to complete her basic education before having children as desired by her husband Denny. She joins a literature course in an open ... See full summary »

Director:

Lewis Gilbert

Writer:

Willy Russell (screenplay)

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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Stars: Pauline Collins, Tom Conti, Julia McKenzie
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Caine ... Dr. Frank Bryant
Julie Walters ... Rita
Michael Williams ... Brian
Maureen Lipman ... Trish
Jeananne Crowley Jeananne Crowley ... Julia
Malcolm Douglas ... Denny
Godfrey Quigley ... Rita's Father
Dearbhla Molloy ... Elaine
Patrick Daly Patrick Daly ... Bursar (as Pat Daly)
Kim Fortune Kim Fortune ... Collins
Philip Hurd-Wood ... Tiger (as Philip Hurdwood)
Hilary Reynolds Hilary Reynolds ... Lesley
Jack Walsh ... Price
Christopher Casson Christopher Casson ... Professor
Rosamund Burton Rosamund Burton ... Denise
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Storyline

In London, twenty-seven year-old hairdresser Rita decides to complete her basic education before having children as desired by her husband Denny. She joins a literature course in an open university and is tutored by the middle-aged Dr. Frank Bryant, an alcoholic and debauched professor from the upper-class who's life has left him emotionally drained, without self-esteem. Frank lives with Julia, who's also a professor, and have a loveless marriage; Julia has a love affair with the dean Brian. Rivals humour and determination to improve herself is contagious; she gives motivation to Frank who helps prepare her for the exams to join university, and be able to leave Denny Will she succeed in the exams? Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Sometimes students end up being the best teachers. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 October 1983 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Educando a Rita See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$73,518, 25 September 1983, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$14,648,076
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Acorn Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Michael Caine was extremely impressed with actress Julie Walters' performance because, even though Walters had never acted in a film before, he thought she was a born natural. See more »

Goofs

When Rita oils Frank's door, the position of her bag on her back changes between shots. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[Frank walks on campus and addresses some students]
Dr. Frank Bryant: Good afternoon.
See more »

Alternate Versions

In a version screened on British TV in the '80s and '90s, Frank tells the imaginary Morgan to 'p*** off', not 'f*** off'; Michael Caine's voice is quite badly dubbed. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Malibu, CA: Educating Lisa (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467, 2nd movement Andante
Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (uncredited)
[Record played in Julia's flat]
See more »

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User Reviews

 
To Sing a Better Song
10 July 2006 | by JamesHitchcockSee all my reviews

Rita White, a young Liverpool hairdresser, enrols on an Open University course to study literature. (This is a scheme in Britain whereby adults can study for a degree at home). In Willie Russell's original stage play, there were only two characters, Rita and her tutor Frank Bryant. The screenplay (also written by Russell) opens up the action to bring in other characters, but Rita and Frank are still very much at the centre.

They are very different. She is intelligent with a sharp wit, but with little formal schooling, whereas he is a highly qualified middle-class academic. She has not enrolled in higher education in her mid-twenties to earn more money or to get a better job, but rather because she believes in education for its own sake. She wants to study literature as a means of self-realisation and as a way of getting a wider perspective on the world. As she puts it, she "wants to sing a better song". In doing so, however, she comes into conflict with her working-class family, who have no sympathy with her intellectual aspirations, and her cheerfully Philistine husband Denny, whose only desire is to start raising a family.

The irony of the film is that Frank possesses what Rita most earnestly desires- learning and culture- but does not appreciate it. In his youth, when he was a published poet, he doubtless shared her ideals, but now in middle age he is a bored, cynical alcoholic. He gave up writing poetry after the breakdown of his marriage and his relationship with his girlfriend Julia is also collapsing. (She is having an affair with one of his colleagues). He turns up drunk to lectures and mocks his students and the university authorities. Although he still earns a living from teaching literature, he has lost his enthusiasm for the subject.

Despite their differences, Rita and Frank become friends, probably because he retains just enough idealism to be touched by her naive enthusiasm. This comes across in the scene where she rushes to tell him of her excitement at seeing a production of "Macbeth" or the one where he introduces her to Blake. Initially Rita has more enthusiasm for the subject than understanding, but she makes good progress, and is eventually able to discuss literature on equal terms with Frank's college students. She becomes a waitress, which gives her more time to study. Her appearance changes; originally a bleached blonde in mini-skirt and high heels she returns to her natural brunette looks and dresses more conservatively. She reverts to her real name, Susan, abandoning "Rita" which she adopted in honour of the writer Rita Mae Brown.

Frank, however, is not happy with the change in her personality. He has become disillusioned with the idea that culture is desirable, and dislikes the way in which the naive but spontaneous and amusing Rita has given way to the more analytical, intellectually aware Susan, whom he sees as pretentious. (He insists on calling her "Rita" even after she has ceased using the name). He accuses himself of being a Frankenstein who has created a monster, and her of singing not a better song, merely a different one which on her lips sounds shrill, hollow and tuneless. This, of course, causes difficulties between them. Susan's success has been achieved at considerable personal cost because her marriage to Denny has collapsed- he burnt her course-books in a fit of rage after discovering that she was taking the Pill in order to delay having children- and she has become estranged from her family, who sided with Denny over the divorce.

If this had been a Hollywood production, it would doubtless have been made as a traditional rom-com, with a happy ending as Frank and Susan fall in love. What we actually have is a film of ideas, with a much more ambiguous ending. The central question is "What is the value of culture and education?" Should one value these things, or question their value as Frank does? Although some reviewers have sympathised with Frank, my sympathies are with Susan; his belittling of her aspirations seems patronising, and there is some justice in her accusations that he liked her better in the early days of their relationship because he was amused by her ignorance and naivety. His apparent disillusionment with his own achievements may reflect not humility but rather a deeper arrogance- the arrogance of the man who mistakes his own cynical nihilism for a higher wisdom.

If that analysis of the film makes it seem very serious, it is not- it is often very funny with some wonderful lines delivered in two great performances by Julie Waters and Michael Caine. (There is also a brilliant, and very memorable, synthesiser score from David Hentschel).

I did not like the sub-plot involving Susan's flatmate Trish, a suicidally depressed culture-vulture, played by Maureen Lipman as an exaggerated caricature. ("Wouldn't you just die without Maaahler?") I also felt an opportunity was lost by filming in Dublin rather than Liverpool. Doubtless the Irish authorities offered a better financial deal, but it meant that the film lacks the authentic sense of place which marks so many of the best British films.

Those reservations apart, however, I loved the film. Its combination of wit, great dialogue, warmth and intellectual depth made it, in my view, easily the best film of 1983. Unfortunately, its chances of winning an Oscar were sabotaged by the fact that the British film industry was going through a brief but brilliant revival in the early eighties and British films- "Chariots of Fire" and "Gandhi"- had achieved the unprecedented feat of winning "Best Picture" in two successive years. A British hat-trick would have been a hurt to American national pride too serious to bear, so "Best Picture" went instead to that horrible tear-jerker "Terms of Endearment". 9/10


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