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Educating Rita (1983, Michael Caine, Julie Walters)



Willy Russell’s adaptation of his stage play picked up Oscar nominations and BAFTAs for director Lewis Gilbert and its two stars, MICHAEL CAINE and JULIE WALTERS (as well as Golden Globes for the two leads). All were well deserved for a film that is both humorous and emotionally dramatic with Caine in particular giving one of his better performances while Walters film debut confirmed her as an actress of note.

She’s a Liverpudlian housewife/hairdresser who, before having children, wants to learn something and enrols in the Open University where, at summer school, she comes up against jaded alocholic academic MICHAEL CAINE who’s teaching by the numbers. But slowly, her enthusiasm and questioning sparks a relationship between the two but one that is about changing life rather than love. Walters ebullience eventually wears down Caine’s world weariness but, ironically, as she gains knowledge, so she is in danger of losing her natural enjoyment of life.

Gilbert, who also directed Caine in the classic Alfie , lets Russell’s dialogue make the film rather than impose flash techniques and the result is an intimate portrait of two very different characters, with the supporting cast all adding to the quality without overshadowing the principles. There are some tongue-in-the-cheek touches – Caine hides booze on the bookshelf behind a copy of The Lost Weekend – but overall, this take on the Pygmalion plot works at every level.

production details
UK | 110 minutes | 1983

Director: Lewis Gilbert
Script: Willy Russell

Michael Caine as Dr. Frank Bryant
Julie Walters as Rita Susan White
Michael Williams as Brian
Maureen Lipman as Trish
Jeananne Crowley as Julia
Malcolm Douglas as Denny
Godfrey Quigley as Rita’s Father
Dearbhla Molloy as Elaine
Kim Fortune as Collins
Philip Hurd-Wood as Tiger
Christopher Casson as Professor
Hilary Reynolds as Lesley