- Movie Rating -

Educating Rita (1983)

| October 28, 1983

I always say that the best stories are those in which you can feel that history of the characters.  You can feel their experience, their education, their life-building just in the way that they carry themselves and in the way that they relate to other people.  And then, when the movie is over, you can believe that they will continue their journey after the credits have rolled.

I did not have that experience with Educating Rita an excruciatingly cute adaptation of Willy Russell’s 1980 stage play (which he adapted himself) about an alcoholic professor of English literature who meets an uneducated Cockney girl named Susan (though she calls herself ‘Rita’) who works as a hairdresser and has a husband with the mental capacity of a washing machine.  Not wanting to have a child for fear that it will tie her to her husband and his rubbed in routine, she tries to better herself by attending and open course for English Literature. 

Her professor is Frank Byrant (Michael Caine), a man who might have had a zeal for the profession decades ago but has since crawled into a stereotypical bottle where he drowns himself in cynicism.  Naturally, he would rather Susan/Rita just simply bugger off but something in her enthusiasm get him excited once again about the prospect of teaching.

I wouldn’t be giving anything away if I reveal that they fall in love with each other, except that they’re not really in love as people, they’re in love with the idea of what they can make each other into.  He likes her unspoiled and uncynical enthusiasm and she likes the idea of pulling him out of the bottle and reigniting his passion for writing.

The problem is that you never really get the sense that she is learning.  You never see the process.  You never hear them talking about what she’s been reading if she has, in fact, been reading at all.  There is a disconnect between what they want to be as individuals and what we see in the process of his education of this woman.  We hear about the authors but we never get the sense that she has read the material.  It’s like Russell doesn’t want to do the legwork.  By the end, everything that is suppose to have happened has happened but we never feel the journey, it’s like we got the reward without the work.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1983) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized