This sample essay on Educating Rita Movie provides important aspects of the issue and arguments for and against as well as the needed facts. Read on this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
Educating Rita, both in its version of a motion picture as well as a play, is a comedy contrived from class based differences of the lead protagonists. Rita, played by Julie Walters is a twenty six year old hairdresser, ailing from working classLiverpool. To the role of her tutor, played by Michael Caine, are associated middle-class markers of education, job security and social status.
Having emerged from different socio-economic backgrounds, the meeting of the tutor and the pupil induces refreshing changes in both their lives. For instance, Rita aspires to overcome the attendant disadvantages of her working class background through her enrolment in the Open University. The education she would receive there, she believes, would liberate and enlighten her; by way of which she hopes to move away from the social strata of her birth.
Professor Frank Bryant, on the other hand, is a middle-aged alcoholic, who has no interest what so ever in his professorship. Instead he openly displays his melancholy and acts indifferent to the requirements of his work. So when these two characters from disparate social and economic backgrounds cross paths, new and interesting developments take place in both their lives. While comedy is used by the director as a suitable narrative implement, the recurrent theme is one based on class. In Educating Rita,
“Rita’s desire for self-discovery places her in conflict with her class background.
She is, thus, a kind of female version of the 1950s ‘scholarship boy’ whose involvement in education and middle-class culture inevitably takes her away from her social origins. In this respect, the film follows the older school of working- class films in placing particular emphasis upon cultural rather than economic divisions. Unlike many of the working-class films that follow it, there is little evidence of unemployment or poverty. What Rita (who is herself employed) aspires to escape is not so much economic hardship as ‘cultural deprivation’” (Kramp & Humphreys, 1993).
It is true of Educating Rita too, that the British nation can stake out intellectual turf as they have always done with class warfare. Running all the way from Richard Sheridan through George Bernard Shaw and John Osborne, the theme of class-conflict has provided the staple of comedy of attitudes and manners. In Educating Rita, the lead characters Julie Walters and Michael Caine bring to screen contrasting but complementary kinds of energy. To their credit, the lead pair also makes life in British academia more interesting than is usually portrayed. Michael Caine’s performance in his role as a despondent English professor and one-time poet is full of artistic skill and finesse. Julie Walters’ portrayal of a charming and cheeky working-class heroine is a perfect foil to Caine’s performance. Though its most obvious debt is to Shaw’s Pigmalion,
“Educating Rita has much of the wit and grit of the British New Wave dramas of two decades earlier. But Willy Russell’s script, from his own stage play (also starring Julie Walters), combines hard-edged social realism with a lightly-worn, spirited humour. This is a comedy of contrasts, immediately juxtaposing the appearance of the sparkly young hairdresser with that of her middle-aged tutor. Walters’ Rita sports a peroxide-blonde hairdo with pink highlights and wears an array of bright outfits; Michael Caine, who bulked out and grew unkempt curls to play Frank, is dressed throughout in drab, faded shades.” (Hill, 1999)
Of course, the equations of gender too play an important role. While there is no indication of romance between the two lead characters, the fact that they are from opposing genders, serves as an inducement of interest in one another. This need not be a romantic interest at all. From the point of view of the Professor, who is nursing his vapid and melancholic existence, Rita might symbolize the caring and understanding daughter that he never had. In the same vein, in Professor Frank Bryant, Rita might have found a sophisticated mentor and a friend, into whose society she longs to belong. While not denying the crucial role thus played by gender in the movie, the strongest underlying theme is one of social class. For example, Rita’s husband, Denny (Malcolm Douglas), is shown to be employed, but he is hindered by his narrowness of outlook and an inability to support his wife’s wish to be independent and to discover her inner self. On discovering the birth control pills which she has been hiding from him, “he burns her books (which include Chekhov) in a fit of impotent rage. Similarly, in Letter to Brezhnev, Tracy’s (Tracy Lea) boyfriend, Mick (Ted Wood) is presented as typical of theLiverpool men from whom Elaine (Alexandra Pigg) wishes to escape. He is unemployed and primarily interested inTracy’s ‘purse’, ending his relationship with her once she is made redundant (and her redundancy money has been spent)”. (Kramp & Humphreys, 1993)
The film as well as the play makes an attempt to implicitly suggest to the audience, the real meaning and purpose of education. The fact that Rita graduates with ease in the end is secondary to her broader achievements as a person. Through the liberal education she receives in the Open University, she is empowered and emboldened as a woman to take affairs of her life into her own hands. Toward the end of the film, she is shown as a more mature, more assertive and a more self-confident woman, which is a direct result of the liberal education and the effective tutorship that she receives from Dr. Frank Bryant. While her working class attitude toward certain issues and situations do not disappear overnight, she does acquire refinement and a hint of sophistication in her demeanour. In a broader sense, the erosion of the traditional working class which 1960s realism began to map reached its climax in films of the 1980s such as Educating Rita (1983), Letter to Brezhnev (1985), Business as Usual, where there is virtually no representation of community as such and very few images of collective action. As in the earlier working-class films, “it is the experience of the north which is privileged. In particular, the city ofLiverpool–a leading seaport whose wealth was traditionally based on the export of textiles fromLancashire andYorkshire–provided the setting for a number of working-class films of the period. (McCreadie, 1990)
In a clever juxtaposition of class attitudes toward academia, the disillusioned and depressed Professor Bryant makes a remarkable suggestion when a student complains of his indifference. He says, “Look, the sun is shining, and you’re young. What are you doing in here? Why don’t you all go out and do something? Why don’t you go and make love–or something?” (Hill, 1999) Such an advice completely belies the intellectual and the scholar in Professor Bryant. If anything, the advice is more in tune with working class sensibilities regarding life and happiness. This juxtaposition of class attitude is further illustrated by the following passage,
”Frank Bryant is a disenchanted intellectual who has no real use anymore for literature, culture, or the life of the mind. Introducing working people in particular to the world of higher education seems utterly pointless to him. When he finds himself assigned as the primary tutor for Rita he remarks to a fellow-instructor: “Why a grown adult wants to come to this place after putting in a hard day’s work is totally beyond me.” He himself would much rather go to a pub than spend the evening instructing some disadvantaged student.” (Western Mail, 2006)
Rita’s vivacious and charming personality is one of the highlights of the film. The chemistry between the two lead protagonists arises from their complimentary personalities. Dr. Bryant, instead of assuming an air of sobriety fitting an academic, displays a ready wit and an irreverent attitude. When Rita first approaches Dr. Bryant, she is mildly intimidated by his intellectual aura. But, Dr. Bryant puts Rita’s apprehensions at ease by suggesting to her that “I am afraid, Rita, that you will find that there is much less to me than meets the eye.” To which Rita replies: “See, y’ can say dead clever things like that, can’t y? I wish I could talk like that. It’s brilliant.” While Dr. Bryant was initially reluctant to take up Rita as his pupil, her adoration of him eventually changes his heart. To her credit, Rita gives a persuasive answer, when asked of her sudden need to get an education: “I’ve been realizin’ for ages that I was, y’ know, slightly out of step. I’m twenty-six. I should have had a baby by now; everyone expects it. I’m sure me husband thinks I’m sterile. He was moanin’ all the time, y’ know, ‘Come off the pill, let’s have a baby.’ I told him I’d come off it, just to shut him up. But I’m still on it. See, I don’t wanna baby yet. I wanna discover myself first. Do you understand that?” (Hill, 1999) But, as she acquires the tools of literary criticism she begins to lose the directness of speech and originality of response which had defined her earlier. To complicate matters further, her flat-mate Trish (played by Maureen Lipman), whom Rita adores for her apparent “sophistication and cultural capital (as well as her independence), despairingly attempts suicide; her tutor Frank is not only an alcoholic but inhabits a middleclass world of sexual infidelities and hypocrisy that appears no less shallow than the one she is leaving. This refusal to offer a simple endorsement of the assimilation of middle-class values by the working class does, however, place Rita in an ambivalent position at the film’s end” (Erskine, et. al, 2000).