The Rachel Papers

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The Rachel Papers
Rachel papers.jpg
Directed byDamian Harris
Produced byAndrew S. Karsch
Written byDamian Harris
Music byChaz Jankel
David Storrs
CinematographyAlex Thompson
Edited byDavid Martin
Initial Film and Television
Longfellow Pictures
Virgin Films
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • 12 May 1989 (1989-05-12)
Running time
95 minutes
Box office$201,468 (USA)[1]

The Rachel Papers is a 1989 British film written and directed by Damian Harris, and based on the novel of the same name by Martin Amis. It stars Dexter Fletcher and Ione Skye with Jonathan Pryce, James Spader, Bill Paterson, Jared Harris, Claire Skinner, Lesley Sharp and Michael Gambon in supporting roles.


Charles (Fletcher) is a confident and intelligent nineteen-year-old, about to attend Oxford University. Charles is a computer nerd and has developed a methodical approach to seduction, and compiles detailed computer files and elaborate plans to seduce the girls he is interested in. His latest target is a beautiful American girl, Rachel (Skye). Charles becomes infatuated with Rachel, and after numerous rebuffs he eventually forms a friendship with her. Rachel already has a boyfriend, control freak DeForest (Spader) who treats her badly. With help from his sister Jenny (Sharp), his eccentric brother-in-law Norman (Pryce), and friend and mentor Geoff (Harris), Charles lures Rachel away from DeForest. His father Gordon (Paterson) is impressed with Charles' new girlfriend. As the unlikely relationship develops, Charles discovers his seemingly "perfect" woman has bad habits and personality flaws, just like all the "lesser" girls he has previously seduced. Charles becomes bored and is seduced by his old flame Gloria (Skinner), ending his relationship with Rachel, who moves to New York. Charles goes to Oxford University but misses Rachel. They meet by chance in a museum and spend the day together, but when parting Rachel only kisses him on the cheek. Charles says in voiceover that he tried, but failed, to remember William Blake's quotation about love being eternal, so that he could say it to Rachel.


Internationally the film was not a significant commercial success, and in the US was ranked 206 in 1989.[2]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 40% based on reviews from 10 critics.[3] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 56% based on reviews from 7 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[4]

Hal Hinson of the Washington Post praises the performance of Jonathan Pryce, and calls Fletcher "a genuine star". Hinson views the use of monologue positively, saying that directly addressing the audience "draw[s] us into an atmosphere of puckish intimacy, and immediately we become accomplices in his plots -- happy accomplices." Praising Fletcher he concludes "His devilish precocity makes "The Rachel Papers" a bracing treat."[5] Barry McIlheney of Empire Magazine give the film 2/5 and writes "Captures the brash boldness of the novel, but not the literary wit. A misguided affair."[6]

Variety says the book brought a fresh direction to old ideas but is critical of the film as "Director Damian Harris isn't able to capture the book's special charms, and resorts to having his young hero address the camera to keep the viewer in the picture." Variety is critical of Fletcher's performance, calling him too self-conscious and a "a less than endearing hero", but praises Skye for her sensual performance.[7] Time Out London is critical of the film, writing "the humour is as smug, adolescent and misogynist as it was in the novel". The reviewer says the performance of the lead actors are insubstantial, but also overshadowed by Pryce's crowd-pleasing cameo, putting the blame on the director and script for the barely developed characters and the lack of detail: "The result is without dramatic or moral weight, despite Highway's contrived comeuppance, and it's impossible to care about the characters."[8]


  1. ^ "The Rachel Papers". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
  2. ^ "1989 Yearly Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
  3. ^ "The Rachel Papers (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  4. ^ "The Rachel Papers". Metacritic.
  5. ^ Hal Hinson (12 May 1989). "The Rachel Papers (R)". Washington Post.
  6. ^ Barry Mcllheney (1 January 2000). "The Rachel Papers". Archived from the original on 7 July 2019.
  7. ^ Staff (1 January 1989). "The Rachel Papers". Variety.
  8. ^ Staff. "The Rachel Papers, directed by Damian Harris Film review". Time Out London.

External links[edit]