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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Educating Rita is a BAFTA-winning British dramedy about diversity and class that's based on a successful stage play by Willy Russell. Rita (Julie Walters) is a positive role model who overcomes hardship through a love of learning, strength, and courage. Professor Frank Bryant (Michael Caine) is an alcoholic who drinks to excess and publicly disgraces himself, but he changes for the better under Rita's influence. Strong language is frequent and includes "f--k" and "wanker." In one scene, a character attempts suicide via an overdose of pills but is saved. Sexual content includes adultery, kissing, and a painting with naked breasts. A character lifts someone's dress against their wishes. In addition to Frank's drinking, characters drink regularly, and some smoke.
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What's the story?
In EDUCATING RITA, Frank Bryant (Michael Caine) is a tired college professor with a drinking problem. Rita (Julie Walters) is a working-class 20-something hairdresser who loves books and wants to improve her prospects in life by taking a part-time course. When Frank starts tutoring Rita, he finds her a refreshing presence in his mundane existence, and they become good friends. Soon Rita finds herself stuck between her current life, which includes a husband who doesn’t want her to study, and the new options presented by her friendship with Frank and her fellow students.
Is it any good?
This dramedy has two highly charismatic leads -- Walters and Caine -- working at the top of their game and elevating an already forward-thinking script to a BAFTA-winning classic. Based on Willy Russell's successful stage play, Educating Rita is inspirational but spiky enough to retain the rough edges that keep it grounded and realistic. It explores weighty themes (alcoholism, social isolation, suicide) but never gets bogged down in them. The relationship between Caine's professor and Walters' student is initially professional and then one of firm friendship, with no overt romantic connotations needed. Educating Rita is a love letter to learning, embracing diversity, mixing outside your social circle, and following your dreams.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Rita’s character in Educating Rita. How does she demonstrate perseverance? Why is this an important character strength?
How is alcohol depicted in the movie? Discuss Frank's relationship with drinking. What might the consequences be for Frank in the real world?
What do Frank and Rita learn from each other? Why is it valuable to mix with people from outside your usual circles?
- In theaters: June 16, 1983
- On DVD or streaming: January 24, 2006
- Cast: Michael Caine, Julie Walters, Michael Williams
- Director: Lewis Gilbert
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Awards/Honors: BAFTA
- Last updated: November 20, 2019
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