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10/10
singing a better song
dr_foreman2 February 2004
What a novel concept - a college movie that isn't about frat parties! Since "Educating Rita" is one of the only movies which explores the true value of schooling, it remains close to this nerd's heart. In fact, in a rather weird conjunction with "Rocky," it inspired me to leave my lousy office job and get a graduate degree - to better meself, as Rita might say.

What are the criticisms here - too long, too stagey, silly synth music? This is not my idea of a slow movie. I like the characters enough to stick with them, even if they aren't...well...moving around much! Surely their personal conflicts are interesting enough to keep me watching, even in the absence of car chases and explosions.

Walters and Caine are likable, the message is empowering (but realistic - Rita really suffers when she tries to change her life), and, just for a change, alcoholism is treated as a serious problem. Is it too sentimental? Well, I always cry. Or at least sniffle. I think that means the movie is moving, rather than sentimental.

Enough defensiveness - this movie is lovely! Where's the American DVD release, then?
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9/10
To Sing a Better Song
James Hitchcock10 July 2006
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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10/10
Shaw would be proud.
budmassey16 April 2006
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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A superb and deeply touching movie
ReviewShop9 August 2004
People who have experienced the mid-life crisis will be at home with this movie, as 26 year old hairdresser, Rita (Julie Walters), is pressurised into settling down with boyfriend Denny. Not only is this an un-needed pressure, but her father is plaguing her about when she is going to have children, but all Rita wants to do is find herself and take up something new. Her common touch and wonderful idiosyncrasies bring a breath of fresh air to snotty high class life, but when she goes to Dr. Frank Bryant (Michael Caine) to not only improve her lexicon, but to improve her image she begins a journey of blood and tears. Frank is assigned to tutor her, and from the start their personalities resonate the human touch.

Dr. Frank Bryant's marriage has gone down the pan, and his current girlfriend is playing away. On top of this he has hit the bottle and can only get through the day of teaching the young toffs, with a blend of his lecturing skills and the drink. He is jaded, he is tired of the same lecture routines, and he cannot understand why these students want to discuss the finer points of Blake. But Rita is new and fresh, initially Rita doesn't possess the skills required to write analytical essays; but she is different, she is vibrant, she is funny and she is unbelievably up front. As their relationship blossoms and Rita starts to find herself, she becomes increasingly drawn to the student way of life, and when Franks life is enriched because of her presence and her willingness to learn he sends her to a summer camp, to be educated at a greater level.

However, Rita's return with a change of character surprises Frank, and soon they drift away from their zany, affectionate meetings. Educating Rita is funny, expressive, sentimental, poignant and sad, as Frank must come to terms with the young bird fleeing the nest, whilst Rita begins to realize what she is becoming. With one thing gained, many other things are lost, and with Frank's increasing drinking problem because of Rita's character change, the two are headed for disaster. Both Caine and Walters give amazingly touching performances, and throughout I felt myself urging them to each other, only to know deep down that the age gap is just too much. Not many films make the audience care enough about relationships and circumstances, but this brilliant movie not only gets the audience committed to their plight, but also feels the full range of emotions.

When Rita gives her own interpretation of what assonance is, Bryant finds himself chuckling away to himself and realising that she is indeed right. What is especially touching is the way that Bryant wants Rita to stay as she is, because life has so little characters left for him. What she wants to become is everything that Bryant wants to forget, and there begins a sentimental tug of war. In between the funny moments, and plot directions is the feeling that life has more to offer than just being able to talk fluently about past authors, something which Bryant is driven to distraction over. But the movie nevertheless doesn't miss a moment to entertain and take the characters to our hearts, ensuring that Educating Rita remains a film classic.
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10/10
An exceptional movie
strateshooter30 May 2007
I was introduced to this movie when I was 5 and though I had no idea about the issues being dealt with I was mesmerized. As an American child I was fascinated by the "ultra-odd" culture and cars and streets and language and I loved every second of it. I think I've judged every film since by this one which would explain why I've never really enjoyed the "Hollywood happy ending". I think my favorite line is when Rita says, "It's fun, tragedy, isn't it?". AMEN. I rediscovered it in college and understood that Rita's journey for education came full circle, without convenient resolution, and I can completely relate. Great acting, great directing, truly a human drama ... I'd long for a sequel if sequel's weren't so damn awful. Brava Julie!
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8/10
Heart-warming and funny drama
jamiecostelo5830 November 2006
Michael Caine and TV favourite Julie Walters shine wonderfully in this film, which tells the story of 26-year-old Rita (Walters) wanting to discover herself by attending the Open University, where alcohol dependant Dr. Frank Bryant (Caine) is a teacher.

The movie follows these two main characters change and reevaluate their lives for the better through each other. Caine and Walters' chemistry is simply divine, and Maureen Lipman also makes an appearance as over the top and eccentric Trish, who on the outside, is this confident, bubbly woman, but on the inside is hurting badly because of her fears of being alone.

Both Caine and Walters won Best Actor and Best Actress awards for their performances (at the BAFTAs), and the movie itself won Best Film in 1984, and one look at Educating Rita tells you why. It's a film that's simply full of warmth and charm.

A strong British film and the perfect debut for the now legendary Julie Walters.
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9/10
Cultivated, touching academic Pygmalion tale
roghache7 March 2006
This wonderfully engaging and thought provoking movie far surpassed my expectations. It's an unusual variation on the old teacher / student story but with a mature twist that asks the viewer the question... Just which one of this pair is doing the teaching here, and exactly what is the subject?

Dr. Frank Bryant is an older, jaded, alcoholic college English professor. He's weary of the snobbish academic world, which he mocks with contempt, and weary of dissecting meaning out of literature for the pretentious but unenthusiastic students in his classes. He's assigned to tutor Rita, a feisty, uneducated Liverpool hairdresser / housewife in her mid 20's, who has enrolled in a college class to improve her language skills and also really to develop her mind. Frank finds Rita literally a breath of fresh air, chuckling at her amusing definition of the word 'assonance' and uncharacteristically moved by her candor, her respect for education, her bubbling eagerness to learn and develop. Frank actually prefers that she remain exactly as she is, fearing she'll come to resemble the pompous snobs to which he's grown all too accustomed, walking the halls of academia all around him.

Both teacher and student here already have 'significant others'. Frank is romantically involved with another teacher, Julia, who is carrying on an affair literally under his nose, so his personal life is in equivalent shambles to his professional situation. Rita is married to the uneducated, working class Denny, who's eager to start a family. She is secretly taking birth control pills, wanting to explore her own and life's possibilities before having children. Obviously conflict emerges here between this couple, with Denny actually quite a sympathetic character. He's not the villain of the piece at all (from my viewpoint), even though he does burn Rita's books, certainly not something to applaud. He just wants the simple things of life, obviously disapproving of his wife's educational endeavors for fear she'll grow away from him.

Michael Caine, in the role he was born to play, is completely convincing as the drunken, disillusioned Frank, who cannot get through his day without a drink. Julie Walters is equally perfect as Rita...first the earlier blonde, uneducated but academically keen housewife / hairdresser, and later the sophisticated woman into which she's transformed.

The dialogue is witty, and the rich relationship that develops between Frank and Rita compelling. No sex scenes here, just discussions of literature and mainly of life. These are two memorable characters that will truly engage your concern. After some additional courses abroad, Rita undergoes an amazing Pygmalion style metamorphosis in admittedly, as some have criticized, a rather unbelievably short time. She is transformed from the original naive, uneducated, working class housewife to a sophisticated literary critic...though her core, in my opinion, remains fundamentally unchanged.

As for the ending, I won't give it away. Will a May December romance emerge from all this tutelage as with that other Pygmalion pair, Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, of My Fair Lady fame? Or will these two ultimately go their separate ways, each altered forever by the other's influence? Personally, the moving, emotional ending left me feeling satisfied that the screenwriters had done their job right. Don't miss this sparkling and intelligent movie which casts attitudes toward education in such a compelling light.
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9/10
Can't Get It Out of My Head
Piafredux16 February 2006
Whatever its faults and flaws might be, I've never been able - or wanted to - get 'Educating Rita' out of my head. What makes it so memorable, such a touchstone? Is it Julie Walters's expressive face? Is it Michael Caine's professor being chivvied from his sodden rut by the pixilated yet determined Rita? Is it the wit and good humor and Rational-enquiry-and-argument-as-drama of the screenplay? Is it the dated electronic score that somehow dates the film but not its cerebral or emotional impact? Truth is I don't know what makes 'Educating Rita' so memorable for me - in my head scenes and snippets of this film just pop up and play whenever they've a mind to! - and perhaps that's what makes this film exemplary as movie magic. It deserved and deserves more viewers - whether or not they'll like isn't important: as Rita/Susan says, she now has "choices" - and in my head when its scenes play I can't help giving it unending applause.
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10/10
Lewis Gilbert's movies
Lee Eisenberg11 October 2005
Having cast Michael Caine in "Alfie" some years earlier, director Lewis Gilbert reunited with him for the equally splendid "Educating Rita". Caine plays drunken, burned-out literature teacher Frank Bryant. Frank seems just about at the end of his rope when he meets hairdresser Rita (Julie Walters), who wants to continue her education. In the process, they both learn some things from each other.

This may sound like a cliché, but it's not here. They never let the movie turn into a sugary mess; they keep it strong from beginning to end. Michael Caine reaffirmed himself as possibly the Union Jack's most dependable actor of the post-war period, and Julie Walters jump-started a formidable career that would include "Billy Elliot" and the "Harry Potter" movies. Lewis Gilbert went on to direct "Shirley Valentine", another movie that everyone should see.
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9/10
A touching and very funny film about love and literature.
Maddyclassicfilms20 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Educating Rita is directed by Lewis Gilbert, is based on the play by Willy Russell and stars Michael Caine, Julie Walters, Michael Williams and Maureen Lipman.

Rita(Julie Walters)is a young hairdresser who at the age of 26 is being pressured by her husband Denny and her family to have a baby.Rita however has other plans, she wants to find herself first and get educated.She signs up to an open university course at her local university, her tutor is the heavy drinking Dr Frank Bryant(Michael Caine).

Bryant takes her on as his student and grudgingly begins to help her on her quest to change into an educated woman.The real heart and soul of Educating Rita is the relationship between Frank and Rita, beginning as part teacher and friend and turning into love for Frank, whereas Rita just considers him her mentor and the one person in her life who she can really talk to and get to understand her.

It would be fair to consider this the My Fair Lady of the eighties. Towards the end as in My Fair Lady Frank can see his Rita slipping away from him and changing so much he can not seem to reach her anymore. When the things she is learning transform her into a stranger to him.At times painful and at other times very funny this is a wonderful film and Michael and Julie both give superb performances.
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8/10
Culture Clash
Claudio Carvalho4 August 2016
In London, the twenty-seven year-old hairdresser Rita (Julie Walters) decides to complete her basic education before having children as desired by her husband Denny (Malcolm Douglas). She joins the literature course in an open university and has tutorial with the middle-aged Dr. Frank Bryant (Michael Caine) that is an alcoholic and deluded professor from the upper-class without self-esteem. Frank lives with the also Professor Julia (Jeananne Crowley) and they have a loveless relationship; Julia has a love affair with the dean Brian (Michael Williams). The amusing Rita gives motivation to Frank to prepare her for the exams to join the university while she leaves Denny and moves to the house of the waitress Trish (Maureen Lipman), who loves Gustav Mahler and is a cult woman. Will she succeed in the exams?

"Educating Rita" is an unknown little gem with a dramatic and funny story about culture clash and improvement of life status through education. The plot partially recalls the storyline of "Pigmalion" or "My Fair Lady" with the change of behavior of Rita through the education. The screenplay has little details that might be unobserved by the viewer, like for example Frank's bottle of whiskey hidden behind the book "The Lost Weekend" and witty dialogues. The top-notch Michael Caine has one of his best performances in the role of a refined and cultured man without self-esteem that finds motivation in life after finding a simple woman that gives a different perspective view of life for him. Julie Walters is simply fantastic. The result is a very human story of friendship that has not aged. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "O Despertar de Rita" ("The Awakening of Rita")
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10/10
What did Rita and Susan really learn?
graham_52526 April 2008
This film definitely isn't an example of great directing, cinematography or editing. The music is kind of cheap sounding and the overall feel isn't far off television. What makes this film great are the script, Julie Walters and Michael Caine. It's proof that if you get the right actors and the right words for them to speak all you have to do and stand back and let them get on with it.

What also makes this film a great film is that it portrays very convincingly a character transformation. For me there is something particularly fascinating about showing a character in a film going through enormous personal change. However in Educating Rita the transformation has a bitter sting and it's only at the end that we find out exactly what the transformation of Rita the hairdresser to Susan the educated confident young woman really means. Rita had told her tutor played by Michael Caine that she wants to "sing a better tune" and that's why she wants to be educated. However at the end she is forced to question the value of all that she has learned when Michael Caine tells her that she hasn't learned a better tune, only a different one and on her lips it sounds "shrill and tuneless".

I think the real message of this film is that ultimately education isn't just about books and knowledge it's about self discovery. At the end of the film, Susan, through education has become an independent woman with real choices in her life. However her real achievement is that she has found out who she is and is comfortable with that. She isn't embarrassed by her past and she isn't mesmerised and infatuated by the middle class world of academia. A great ending to a fantastic film.
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10/10
A Classic
Jason Williamson23 September 2006
This play is perhaps the most warming and enthralling I have read in a long time: with the film meeting the standards set by Russel in the play.

The chemistry between Caine and Walters is indeed magnificent to watch, capturing all of the greatest aspects of the play in a profound and thoughtful manner. Following Rita through her journey from a uneducated, naive and insecure character to a developed, matured and refined woman. Throughout her journey we are given an insight into both what she gains and loses, watching her marriage deteriorate and her maturing into a well rounded student.

To put it simply: it is brilliant!
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9/10
Another song to sing!
Syl29 August 2006
I remember when I first saw this film many years ago on television. I always feel like I'm returning home to those memories after twenty years. I love Julie Walters as Rita/Susan in the film, a hairdresser who aspires to become an intellectual. At first, she is not your typical college student. She is older, married, and not ready to have children with her husband. She seeks better. I remember how she nearly gave up when he invites her to dinner because she thought that she brought an inappropriate bottle of wine or champagne to her teacher's house. Anyway, her performance sparkles with sheer delight and Rita/Susan becomes an endearing character who has not forgotten her roots or her future. Anyway, she leaves the party without even going in afraid of being laughed at by the snobbery bunch of college intellectuals. Anyway, she goes to the bar where her family is and they're singing this ridiculous song "I'm so happy that you're so happy" and she witnesses her own mother crying and saying that they're must be a better song to sing and she decides to come back to class not that she is not met with pleasure by her own husband. He seems content with a home, wife, and child rather than his wife going out and becoming smarter and alive. Julie does a fantastic job at bringing her to life that you just can't imagine another person in this role. Anyway, Sir Michael Caine plays the drunken lost college professor who learns from his student, Rita/Susan as well. Michael Williams also has a role but you might know him better as being the husband to Dame Judi Dench. Anyway, the relationship between student and teacher despite a small age difference could have gone further and I wished it had but the movie does have a satisfying ending which is why I am giving it a 9 and not a ten. Anyway, the chemistry is there. Watching pros like Walters and Caine engage in conversation is worth watching again and again. Rita/Susan becomes who she wanted to be and that is an independent woman.
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Moving but never sentimental
superjoanie21 December 2003
'Educating Rita' is one of those films that, unfortunately, most people will never see. A lack of recognition in Britain is most likely to blame, along with the audacity to step outside the typical idea of British-films-made-for-the-US. If you do get the chance to see this film, I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

It's a film that will certainly pull at your heartstrings, but never actually gets soppy or acknowledges what the audience feels. The two leads, (played brilliantly by Michael Caine and Julie Walters) are both trapped within two very different worlds. Walters - as hairdresser/student Susan/Rita - is suffering a life of bland working-class domesticity in 1980s Liverpool, unwilling to have a child until she better understands herself. Caine - as university professor Frank - is disillusioned with the academic life, surrounded by pretentious students and constantly dependent on alcohol to see him through the day. This could so easily have been turned into a cheesy love-fest, in which both characters fall head over heels for each other and face their troubles neatly and quickly in order to dash off into a new life together. Thankfully, Willy Russell is made of stronger stuff and delivers a story that is witty, clever and poignant without ever going cold.
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My brief review of the film
sol-27 July 2005
Willy Russell does a reasonably good job of transforming his witty play into a film script here, however the new supporting characters that he includes add nothing to the material, and the film really could have done without most of the scenes that involve them. Aside from that, a continuity error or two, and inappropriate choices of music choices, everything else is here is quite good. Caine and Walters are both superb, not overplaying their characters at all, which easily could have been done. Some of the best witty lines are preserved from the play, as are the ideas about switching teacher-student relationships. It is not a perfect film, and the material suits a two-character play much better, however this is still a great on-screen vision the play.
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9/10
A character-driven movie, with Julie Walters easily in the driver's seat
Robert Reynolds15 November 2001
This film is primarily character-oriented, although the script is quite good. As such, the leads must perform well or the film will die. They pull it off admirably. While Michael Caine is marvelous in his role, the part is one he could do in his sleep. Rita is the linch-pin role and Julie Waters carries the film, playing the role exceedingly well. Without a dynamic performance from her, you migh as well turn this into bookmarks. Recommended.
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7/10
There Must Be A Better Song
sddavis6314 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The highlight of this movie is without doubt the performances of Michael Caine and Julie Walters. They were superb together, each latching on to their roles perfectly, and with a marvellous on screen chemistry together. Those strong performances were essential to make this movie work, because of the subject matter. Essentially a retelling of Shaw's "Pygmalion" set in the contemporary world of a university campus, the story isn't at all original (although it has a few twists) but Caine and Walters make it worth watching.

Caine is Dr. Frank Bryant, an English Professor who obviously struggles with demons of his own, in a relationship that isn't working well and spending a good deal of his time drunk, even when he's teaching. Into his life comes Rita (Walters), whose real name is Susan. She's an Open University student who wants to overcome her working class roots and become educated and cultured. She has to overcome opposition from her own husband and family, who are upset with her because she's been married six years and hasn't had a baby yet - which they seem to feel is her only purpose in life. Bryant and Rita develop a bond and help each other overcome their personal challenges and find transformation. Rita leaves her husband behind and becomes a full time student (and something of an expert on Chekov), while Bryant - after an embarrassing scene in which he's falling down drunk in front of his class - is packed off to Australia, which represents for him a new beginning.

I appreciated the decision not to turn this into a sappy romance between Bryant and Rita. That seemed to be the way the ending was headed and it would have been the wrong way to go. Instead, Rita simply meets Bryant at the airport as he's flying off and thanks him for everything he's done and - whatever his personal problems - for being such a wonderful teacher to her. It's a very moving closing scene, made even more emotional by the very fact that there's no romance involved. Then, they simply go their separate ways into new lives. The line that stands out for me from the movie is spoken by Rita's mother. As the family gathers in a pub and sings along with the music she looks decidedly unhappy. Rita asks her what's wrong, and her memorable reply, with pained look on her face, is "There must be a better song." In other words, she - alone among the family - understands Rita's need to get away from all this. The movie is well done; one of countless adaptations of "Pygmalion" and so it won't carry a lot of mystery for anyone, but still well done. 7/10
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Needed stronger characters and a stronger message/conclusion
bob the moo27 March 2004
Rita is a young, working class housewife with a thick Scouse accent and a right gob on her (as her peers might say). She decides she wants to better herself and starts to attend private classes with Dr Frank Bryant, teacher of literature. As she begins to learn more and more, she finds herself isolated between her own class and her new student peers and realises she has to make a decision. However, as she changes her relationship with Bryant suffers.

I remember this film as a rather soapy tale that never appealed to me and so I never watched it. However I had a few hours one evening when it was shown last week and decided that it wasn't fair to prejudge and so gave it a go. The film isn't totally clear where it is going - if it wants to be a romance, a class story or what. Nor is it's message finally clear and I was able to interpret it several ways depending on which I wanted. I chose to take it that education is not about becoming a snob but opening yourself up to choices. However this reading doesn't allow for the fact that you will be seen as a class traitor if you try to do what Rita did (as she was here, albeit in a thread that was not well developed). I have seen people become like Rita did (aloof and snobbish) when they go the University - even without the learning, they will look down on those who left school at 16. When I did my degree, I saw this clearly as I worked as a cleaner for several hours each morning before going to 9am lectures - when I was a cleaner I would see how people would look down on me simply because I had to work my way through.

Rita changes the same way here and doesn't seem to fully repent of that when she reaches the end of her film. If anything, the way the film ends is a problem as it doesn't satisfactorily tie up her character, even if it does appear to tie off the narrative threads of the film. At the start of the film, Rita was a great character as she involved me in her story as I liked her, as rough and ready as she was. However she lost me as she slowly became a pompous snob - and the film never recovered from the fact that it requires her to lose the audience for a while.

Despite this, Walters is actually quite good although all she has to do is force her accent and act a bit rough! In a way her character in the early stages of the film bear more in common with a Victoria Wood sketch than a drama! Caine is good but the film does him a disservice by not really developing his character beyond a basic middle-aged man who is a lonely drunk. The support cast is OK but really the film belongs to Rita and Walters.

Overall, I wasn't totally won over by this film mainly because what I took from it wasn't very valuable. The characters aren't developed as well as they really needed to be to make this a more enjoyable drama.
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Intelligent, cultivated and witty
michelerealini9 March 2004
I can watch this film many times without being tired, for many reasons.

First, "Educating Rita" is led by two outstanding actors. Their lines are memorable -it is almost impossible to choose only one as an example. By the way, one of the most captivating is when Julie Walters says to Michael Caine "You look like a geriatric hippy!".

Second, the film is like a love letter to literature and poetry. Without being pedantic and always with jokes, director Lewis Gilbert and author Willy Russell talk to us about Blake, Shakespeare, Ibsen, Wilde, Shaw and others. In the film the relationship between the professor and the student can also reminds us of "A Star is born" and "My fair lady"...

Third, the film is shot entirely in Dublin. A city I love and where I lived for some time -I recognize many of the locations!

Lewis Gilbert -an expert and an eclectic director- worked with Michael Caine for the first time in 1966 in "Alfie", a sarcastic comedy about a London playboy. After having directed -among the following features- three spectacular Bond epics ("You only live twice", "The Spy who loved me" and "Moonraker"), Gilbert and Sir Michael team again in 1983 with this movie. They find again the taste for a sweet and sour comedy, about encounters between "working class heroes" and upper class people.

Michael Caine is one of my favourite actors. What can I say? The more mature he becomes, the more passionating his performances are...
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9/10
Truly Inspiring
mjw23051 January 2007
Educating Rita is the story of a young married woman, who just wants to better herself. Rita (Julie Walters) and Frank (Michael Caine) totally bring this story to life with their truly excellent character portrayal's.

The movie explores the difficulties Rita encounters as she tries to fulfil her desires, her personal struggles against the pressure of her family to stay in her rut and breed children she is not ready for yet, and her emotional journey through the trials of achieving something at the very limit of her grasp.

As well as the difficulties Rita faces, we also see the turmoils of Frank (her teacher) and his relationship problems caused by his alcoholism.

Every single character is fleshed out realistically and with enough depth to see their own personal battles, that the viewer can relate too.

Educating Rita is a heart warming and inspiring story, that is sometimes amusing, sometimes tragic, but always true to real life and thoroughly entertaining.

9/10
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Sparkling!!
barrettk24 December 2001
Unremarkable settings (a University somewhere in England), a professor of literature (how boring), an uneducated English housewife (dull), and yet one enchanting movie.

Julie Walters walks on campus and walks away with a truly delightful performance rarely seen before. Transforming from dizzy hairdresser to an educated woman she proves that we are what we are and thank God she remained who she was. The only disappointing moment in the movie was when she walked on in that long corridor of the airport. She should have joined Frank. And when the music came on, I had tears in my eyes. There, I admit it!
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8/10
Quite an education
videorama-759-85939115 September 2017
ER is an interesting film that kind of grows on you, as you watch it, which is only because of the chemistry between two great actors, Caine, as the inebriated and huggable professor, who doesn't mind the odd drink or ten, and Walter as the budding new student who wants to learn everything. She takes an instant liking to him, but he too quickly warms to her, where something more than the normal one on one, arrangement between student and teacher, takes place. It's a true friendship, a bond as you will, about two people who need each other more than they know. Knowing that, the movie is adapted from a very known stage play, there were only a couple of moments (I won't tell you where) that were kind of stupid, or forced, heralded by film's sudden music score. Other than that, ER is a very enjoyable comedy/drama, which raised a few laughs at Walter's hand. I first saw the film 32 yrs ago, so I would of found it funnier back that. When I think of fine actors, that have maintained being fine actors, Michael Caine is the first one that's come to mind. He's never dropped his guard, and has never, never given a bad performance, and I'd challenge anyone to question that or defy my opinion. Here, like so many films, he's at top form, sadly, missing an Oscar win. He's marvelous, and we really feel for his character, if at times, getting really angry by his arrogance or pig headed attitude to stop, and face what he's doing to himself, and get himself together, the greatest example, of when he tears up his thesis. Funnily enough, less than six months later, he would appear on the screens again, as another drunk, this time in The Honorary Consul, another great performance, and another drunk we can't help feeling sympathy for, although here, his performance is better, among so many other great performances. I felt less sympathy for his drunk character here, though. Now onto Walters, who just captivated me, or I should even say, capsulated, when I first saw her, 32 years ago. I had never seen this actress, in any thing before, but boy if this was a breakthrough performance, she's pass with distinction. Her performance just had me. Believe it or not, even though I hate to admit it, my favorite scene was the last. I don't think I've seen a more affecting farewell scene in my life. I did too, like how the film was shot, with that above or artificial light, like in Lady Chatterly's Lover, Priest Of Love, that suited the university atmosphere, perfectly. Make a date with Frank and Rita.
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9/10
A fabulous film.
Paul Evans24 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Rita is a twenty six year old hairdresser, who's only had a basic education, after a long time deliberating she joins an open University course with Doctor Frank Bryant, she wants to change her life, and instantly changes his life.

There aren't enough superlatives I can throw at these two, my favourite performance to this day from Michael Caine, he's funny, tragic, captivating and totally engaging. He bounces so well off a young Julie Walters, for my money one of the best British actresses of all time, her performance is sensational, you truly see Rita develop throughout the film. A shame Lipman didn't get more screen time, the few minutes she's on, she's brilliant.

I've never forgotten that phrase 'assonance means getting the rhyme wrong.'

It has some incredibly funny moments, Brian's phone calls to his agents, Rita's early outbursts. It has some truly sad moments, where Denny burns her books, and it boasts a moment of devastation, poor Maureen Lipman's character Trish.

It's a fabulous film, I know many see it as an Eighty's Pygmalion story, but it's so much more then that, it's a social character study, which is acted to perfection. A great film. 9/10
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