Picks and Pans Review: Educating Rita

updated 12/19/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

In this quietly memorable film, Michael Caine plays a rumpled, burned-out English professor who couldn't care less about his students and prefers Johnny Walker to William Shakespeare. Enter Julie Walters, a saucy working girl dressed in a tight miniskirt and a clinging sweater. Her hair is peroxide blond with little pink wings, but her mind is sharp: She comes to Caine's class as part of a remedial program. What ensues is a romantic comedy with lots borrowed from Pygmalion. But the performances by Caine and Walters make the film distinctive. Walters is a vivid presence from her first tottering entrance on high heels to the final scene, where she and Caine bid farewell at an airport. (He leaves for an enforced sabbatical in Australia after one too many drunken revels.) The director is Lewis Gilbert, who has done three James Bond films. He also did Alfie, which featured Caine's best performance until Rita. Caine deftly underplays his role, combining humor and vulnerability. The supporting cast is also superlative: Michael Williams, as a fellow professor having a secret affair with Caine's live-in girlfriend, is hilarious (he always pretends he's just stopped by to use the phone). The movie isn't really about academic life—it's about how a young woman reawakens a tired older man's appetite for life—but let's give everyone an "A" anyway. (PG)

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