Comedy #16: “Educating Rita” (1983)
Another bittersweet movie disguised as a romantic comedy — fortunately, its about two people in love with literature, and fortunately, for the audience, they are played by Michael Caine and firecracker Julie Walters. Set at a Liverpool University, it follows working-class hairdresser Susan as she desperately seeks to improve her life and escape her blue collar fate. Her enthusiasm re-energizes her tutor, a failed writer who drifts through academia drunk and lost and yet, because it is Michael-fucking-Caine, with wit drolly intact. Originally a two-character play, the movie struggles to move beyond the stage and works best when it is just the two protagonists sitting in a room verbally jousting.
This is one of my brother’s favorites, in no small part because of the bold step the producers took in giving the film an electronic soundtrack, composed entirely on synthesizer. It is unique to be sure, if now somewhat dated. Still, “Educating Rita” is one of the best movies about the joy of learning, what it takes to change your direction in life, and what you both gain — and lose — in making the effort.
You could put it in your Netflix queue, or just start watching it now — someone’s posted the whole thing on YouTube.