Producer-director Lewis Gilbert has done a marvelous job of bringing the charming British play, ed ucating Rita, to the big screen. Aided greatly by an expert film adaptation by its playwright, Willy Russell, Gilbert has come up with an irresistible story about a lively, lower-class British woman hungering for an education and the rather, staid, degenerating English professor who reluctantly provides her with one.
Witty, down-to-earth, kind and loaded with common sense, Rita is the antithesis of the humorless, stuffy and stagnated academic world she so longs to infiltrate. Julie Walters injects her with just the right mix of comedy and pathos. Michael Caine is the sadly smart, alcoholic teacher who knows the fundamentals of English literature, but long ago lost the ability to enjoy life the way his uneducated pupil does.
The contradictions of the two characters are at the core of the picture, as Walters goes from dependent housewife to intelligent student and Caine begins to learn what it’s like to feel again.
1983: Nominations: Best Actor (Michael Caine), Actress (Julie Walters), Adapted Screenplay