Saturday, 6 July 2013
Educating Rita (1983) - ★★★★
Writers: Willy Russell (Screenplay)
Stars: Julie Walters, Michael Caine, Maureen Lipman, Malcolm Douglas
Educating Rita is funny, charming, and masterfully performed by Walters and Caine. A film it is constantly compared to is Pygmalion (1938), one of my all time favorite movies. While it lacked the wit and character development of Pygmalion, I found it to be different in a refreshing way. We're used to imperfect characters and the 'opposites-attract' formula, yet the relationship in Educating Rita was warmer, with a bigger connection between the two leading roles. There was never a dull moment in this movie for me.
Dr. Frank Bryan (Michael Caine) is an alcoholic English professor that is disillusioned with poetry, love, and life. Like a beam of lightning arrives Rita (Julie Walters), a young and uneducated lower-class hairdresser. She wants to become good at English, because she's too smart for the lower-class fools that she is surrounded with day in day out. It's hard for her to be stuck in the middle, too smart for the uneducated, too dumb for the sophisticated. At first Frank refuses, but Rita's persistence and hard-work ethic gets him to accept her as a student. Although they're from completely different classes, they find that the only people they can truly identify with and talk to are each other.
I found their friendship to be much more meaningful, even beautiful, than that of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. That is what separates this film from those legendary movies. Caine and Walters just have the most marvelous chemistry on screen, being both funny and tender together. Although this film is of a lower quality than others like it, it's still a good movie!
In many ways, Educating Rita has more substance to it than that of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady. That is because it is Rita, the woman, who sets out and strives to change herself. She MAKES the professor teach her. Frank's not trying to make her prettier, or refine her social skills... all he's trying to do is expand her mind.
Julie Walters could of won an Academy Award for her role as Rita. She was absolutely stunning. In one scene, you see Rita sitting in a pub surrounded by drunken fools. They're all singing a silly song, except for herself and her mother. She turns to her mum and asks "Why aren't you singing?" To which the mother replies, "There must be better songs to sing than this." The ferocity in Walters eyes during this scene happened to be the most powerful in the movie. She then told Frank that-that is the reason she wants to get an education... "Because there must be better songs to sing than this!" There are many other scenes where Walters has perfect comic timing too. It really was a masterful performance.
At first I found the 80s electronica movie-score to be a little off-putting, but then I came to love it. It completely fit the movie, uplifting the scenes where Rita was upset or angry. I also think the cinematography and screenplay was fantastic. I don't understand why some people despise this movie so.
Overall, I was thoroughly entertained throughout Educating Rita. I admit that it could be better, but one thing they did perfectly was cast the right actors. I couldn't fathom the idea of this film without Caine or Walters. They took a story that has been done over and over, then turned it into a completely memorable movie on its own. I loved the humor, I loved the chemistry, I loved the story, and I loved this movie.