Michael Caine and the knockout Julie Walters deliver a pair of wonderful performances in this endearingly bittersweet tale of a boozily burnt-out professor's tutoring of (and subsequent tutoring by
) a free-spirited cockney hairdresser determined to improve her lot in life. The basic plot won't exactly surprise anyone who's ever seen a movie before, but the ace cast (particularly Caine, who's rarely this subtle) continually finds new directions to spin off from the rather rote path. Although the end result is perhaps just a little too convinced of its own adorability to attain classic status, this remains a rarity in the genre--a feel-good film that earns its emotions honestly. A nice change of pace for director Lewis Gilbert, who is perhaps better known for his contributions to the James Bond series. --Andrew Wright
In Educating Rita, Dr. Frank Bryant (Michael Caine) is an alcoholic professor of literature headed for dire straits. Rita (Julie Walters) is a frustrated young housewife and hairdresser filled with wanderlust. When the two meet as student and teacher, no lecture hall can contain their attraction to one another. As Rita engages her teacher in a fuzzy romance, she matures and discovers a new side of herself, but in the end she must choose either her marriage or the magnetic Dr. Bryant. Educating Rita reunites director Lewis Gilbert with star Michael Caine, who also worked together in the 1966 drama "Alfie". Bryant's shortcomings as a drunk and a womaniser are detestable, yet Gilbert still allows viewers to empathise with his character--once again demonstrating that he is a master at both commanding the camera and at deconstructing the human heart.