Shirley is a 42-year-old Liverpudlian bored housewife, who takes a holiday trip to Greece, meeting a local man who bolsters her self-confidence. She evolves and transforms to the point of finally being unrecognizable by her husband.
A shy reclusive lady is convinced by an invisible entity to sing. Subsequently, she finds herself noticed by a sleazy talent agent and her talent being showcased on-stage. She also meets a kind but nervous man who becomes her best friend.
John Preston is a British Agent with the task of preventing the Russians detonating a nuclear explosion next to an American base in the UK. The Russians are hoping this will shatter the "special relationship" between the two countries.
In Liverpool, twenty-seven-year-old hairdresser Rita (Dame Julie Walters) decides to complete her basic education before having children, as desired by her husband Denny (Malcolm Douglas). She joins a literature course in an open university and is tutored by the middle-aged Dr. Frank Bryant (Sir Michael Caine), an alcoholic and debauched professor from the upper-class, whose life has left him emotionally drained, without self-esteem. Frank lives with Julia (Jeananne Crowley), who's also a professor, and has a loveless marriage. Julia has a love affair with Dean Brian (Michael Williams). Rita's humor and determination to improve herself is contagious. She gives motivation to Frank, who helps prepare her for the exams to join the university, and be able to leave Denny. Will she succeed in the exams?Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This movie inspired many marriage break-ups according to Dame Julie Walters (Rita). While receiving the Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Film at the Moet British Independent Film Awards in 2013, Walters said: "I get people who come up to me and say 'I left my husband because of you, because of that film', or 'I got an education'. So many." See more »
When Rita tells Frank that she will get her own flat, her position next to the table, and the way she holds her cigarette, change between shots. See more »
What delights me most about this movie is that in early 2006 it finally came out on DVD. There is a minor glitch in the establishing scene at the beginning, but to see Rita once again in widescreen is almost like seeing it for the very first time.
Educating Rita is one of many re-tellings of Shaw's Pygmalion, itself based on a Greek myth, so the story is nothing new. Rita, as so many great British films, is based on a play, in this case by Willie Russell, who also collaborated with director Lewis Gilbert, who, in addition to directing several Bond features, also directed Michael Caine in his Oscar nominated title role in Alfie, on the delightful Shirley Valentine, cast in a similar vein. It would be easy to think of Rita as My Fair Lady without the Marne Nixon voice overs, but that would be, as a classmate of Rita's puts it, facile.
The combination of Michale Caine and Julie Walters is pure magic. Unlike Dudley Moore's lovable drunk, Caine's Frank Bryant is a drunk that is difficult to love, which makes him far more interesting. He wallows, not in self pity, which would be disgusting, but in the infinitely sadder depths of self acceptance and resignation to shortcomings. He is a failed drunken poet who has lost the capacity to feel his own life.
Enter Rita, a hairdresser who wants to learn literary criticism, but more importantly, learn a way out of a life that she feels all too well. From his jaundiced perspective, Frank fears that educating Rita would transform her into just another one of the lifeless women that litter his life, but Rita will not be denied. Gradually, through voracious consumption of the Canon of Western Literature, Rita learns what she believes to be a better song to sing.
But it's not that simple. Rita finds that people, even educated people, in the end, have only themselves to cling to, and Shaw, Blake, Ibsen and Chekov may help fill up the empty moments, but they can't take away the emptiness itself. What does Rita want? Frank? A baby? Her ex-husband? No. What Rita wants is choices, and the freedom to choose among them for herself, and getting there is warm and moving drama that elevates Educating Rita among the absolute best of its era and genre.
David Hentschel's synthesized soundtrack is absolutely wonderful. It is by now so obviously from another era that it allows you to be drawn even more into the film, giving it a more timeless than dated feel. The supporting cast is wonderful, including Michael Williams, who, aside from being Mr. Judi Densch for the last thirty years of his life, also received a Papal knighthood, and classically renowned actress Maureen Lipman who was later awarded a C.B.E. for her work in British theatre.
Ultimately, however, it is the sheer magic of Caine and Walters, no less so than with Harrison and Hepburn in My Fair Lady, that gives Rita the boundless charm, wit, and passion that have made it one of my favorite films of all time.
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