Educating Rita

Director: Lewis Gilbert
Year Released: 1983
Rating: 2.5

Disengaged and burned out literature professor Dr. Bryant (Sir Michael Caine) gets assigned bubbly hairdresser "Rita" (Dame Julie Walters) to tutor in the likes of Chekhov, Forster and Ibsen and is initially resistant but eventually caves (although the two do a lot of bickering) - meanwhile, his personal life is falling apart, with his wife having an affair with one of his colleagues and his alcoholism is quite severe.  The foundation seems to be Shaw's Pygmalion - with Caine as Higgins and Walters as Eliza - but while all of the scenes involving just them in Bryant's office are outstanding, the film lags a bit when it has to do with the "outside world," and all the side bits involving Rita's husband (who doesn't like her getting an education) or Rita's roommate Trish (Dame Maureen Lipman) - who attempts suicide, which is supposed to be affecting but isn't - just detract from the main narrative.  To answer the question of whether or not a hairdresser can love "upper crust" writing, the answer is yes (just like how, say, a blue-collar firefighter can appreciate the work of Caravaggio).  Here's a line from Caine that I feel deeply: "You don't really expect me to teach this when I'm sober."