Educating Rita (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lewis Gilbert|
|Produced by||Lewis Gilbert|
|Written by||Willy Russell|
|Editing by||Garth Craven|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||110 minutes|
|Box office||$14,648,076 (USA)|
Educating Rita is a 1983 drama/comedy film directed by Lewis Gilbert with a screenplay by Willy Russell based on Russell's stage play. The film stars Michael Caine, Julie Walters, and Maureen Lipman. It won multiple major awards for best actor and best actress and was nominated for three Oscars.
Liverpudlian working-class girl Rita (Walters) wants to better herself by studying literature. Her assigned Open University professor, Frank Bryant (Caine), however, has long since openly taken to the bottle, and soon develops misgivings about Rita's ability to adapt to academia. Bryant is a jaded university lecturer, who describes his occupational ability as 'appalling but good enough for his appalling students'. His passion for literature is reignited by Rita, whose technical ability for the subject is limited by her lack of education but whose enthusiasm Frank finds refreshing.
The film focuses on Rita's unhappiness with her life in her blue-collar, working-class environment including with her husband who wants to have a family, as well as her struggles to fit into a new educated middle-class existence in academia, while seeking a "better song to sing." Rita's original preconceptions that the educated classes have better lives and are happier people are brought into question throughout the film through Frank's failing social life and alcoholism and her flatmate Trish's attempted suicide. Rita's search and its meaning to her evolve, as does she, as she adapts to academia and grows as a person.
- Michael Caine as Dr. Frank Bryant
- Julie Walters as Susan "Rita" 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
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2010)|
Julie Walters, in her feature film debut, reprised her role from the stage production.
The film was shot in Dublin. Trinity College, Dublin, is used as the setting for the university, and University College Dublin, in Belfield, Dublin, is used for Rita's summer school. The rooms used by Bryant as his office and tutorial room were those of the College Historical Society and the University Philosophical Society, respectively; and while the building was considerably refurnished, the production chose to leave portraits of Douglas Hyde and Isaac Butt and committee photographs in the former, and a bust of John Pentland Mahaffy in the latter. No. 8 Hogan Avenue in the South Lotts area of Ringsend was used for Rita's house in the film, and one in Burlington Road, Ballsbridge for Bryant's. The scene in France was filmed in Maynooth, outside Dublin, and Pearse Station and Dublin Airport were also used. The scene in the pub was shot in The Stag's Head pub on Dame Court in Dublin. However, the pub which Rita enters is the Dame Tavern which is opposite The Stag's Head. Filming also took place in Stonybatter with Aughrim St Church being used for the wedding scene. Stanhope St school was used as a production base
The UK's Variety lauds Walters's interpretation of Rita as "Witty, down-to-earth, kind and loaded with common sense." "Rita," the reviewers gush, "is the antithesis of the humourless, stuffy and stagnated academic world she so longs to infiltrate. Julie Walters injects her with just the right mix of comedy and pathos."
Ian Nathan reviewing the film in British Empire magazine calls the film a "gem," and gives it four out of five stars. He describes Walters's "splendidly rich interpretation" of Rita and characterizes her "reactions to the traditions of English lit[erature] [as] carry[ing] the caustic brilliance of true intelligence, a shattering of blithe pretension..." Of Walters and Caine, Nathan opines, "[T]hey make a beautifully odd couple, in a love story at one remove." This reviewer depicts the director's effort as "effective, and finally optimistic," and observes about the film that the playwright's "angry message that people are trapped by their environment not their abilities, is salved by the sweetness of [Frank's and Rita's] final parting." Nathan's "verdict" of the film is one of "[c]harming, glittering characterisations that, though they don't run deep, nevertheless refresh."
American critic Janet Maslin called the film "an awkward blend of intellectual pretension and cute obvious humour ... the perfect play about literature for anyone who wouldn't dream of actually reading books"; she noted that "the essentially two-character play has been opened up to the point that it includes a variety of settings and subordinate figures, but it never approaches anything lifelike."
Chicago film critic Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four, calling the film a "forced march through a formula relationship"; he said Russell's screen adaptation "added mistresses, colleagues, husbands, in-laws, students and a faculty committee, all unnecessary" and said the playwright/screenwriter "start[ed] with an idealistic, challenging idea, and then cynically tr[ied] to broaden its appeal."
Awards and major nominations 
At the 37th British Academy Film Awards, Educating Rita won Best Film, as well as Best Actor and Best Actress for Caine and Walters, respectively. Walters was nominated for Best Newcomer, Maureen Lipman for Best Supporting Actress, and Willy Russell for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Caine and Walters also took Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively, at the Golden Globes. The much awarded film was further nominated for but did not win Best Actor (Caine) and Best Actress (Walters) as well as Best Writing for derivative screenplay (Russell) at the 56th Academy Awards.
Retrospective assessments 
In 1999, the film was among the BFI Top 100 British films.
In order to illustrate the rhyming principle of assonance, Dr Bryant quotes the rhyming of the words 'swans' and 'stones' from W B Yeats' "The Wild Swans at Coole" as an example. This is, rather, an example of consonance. However, in a scene just before Rita meets Dr Bryant some students mockingly observe that 'He doesn't even know what assonance means!' That's why Rita asked what assonance means in the first place, so it is Dr Bryant's mistake, not the film's. In an ensuing discussion between professor and his new aspiring student, when asked whether she understands assonance, Rita replies, "Yeah, it means you've got the rhyme wrong."
Proposed remake 
In November 2002, the then-82-year-old director Lewis Gilbert went public with plans to remake his film "with a black cast that could include Halle Berry and Denzel Washington", with principal photography to commence in 2003. The project, however, never got off the ground.
- "Educating Rita". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
- "Educating Rita (UK)". Variety magazine. 1982-12-31. Retrieved 2013-01-10.
- Ian Nathan. "Educating Rita". Empire magazine. Retrieved 2013-01-10.
- Janet Maslin (September 21, 1983). "Educating Rita (1983)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
- Roger Ebert (October 28, 1983). "Educating Rita". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2011-05-21.
- "Awards for Educating Rita (1983)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2013-01-10.
- "Sleuth - Sir Michael Caine interview". IndieLondon.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
- "In brief: Black cast for Educating Rita remake". The Guardian. 15 November 2002. Retrieved 2010-08-07.
- Educating Rita at BFI Screenonline
- Educating Rita at the Internet Movie Database
- Educating Rita at AllRovi
- Educating Rita at Rotten Tomatoes
- An article on the film's Dublin locations