Just watched Educating Rita on DVD. Made in 1983 it features a young Julie Walters, and a by then not-so-young Michael Caine. (He was 50) I remember reading the play this film was based on a few years ago; from memory it was a two actor piece, with strong and sharp scenes between the two protagonists. Unfortunately the playwright, Willy Russell, also wrote the screenplay, and has taken the opportunity to expand it out considerably. A few of the two actor scenes remain, but without the build up over a whole play, they lose some of their impact. In their place we have a host of other scenes, and a bunch of other characters, many of them stating the obvious, instead of letting us find out about them through the two main characters’ speeches. Obviously a two actor film set in one room was never going to work, but to me what’s here doesn’t work that well any more either. Maybe the piece has just dated, but I don’t remember that the play felt dated when I read it. Maybe it’s Lewis Gilbert’s direction, which is flat and stolid. It’s interesting that Roger Ebert, whose review of the film was written at the time the film was first released, is also disappointed with what’s happened to the original script. So perhaps my feelings aren’t entirely misplaced.
Added to these negatives are the awful mix of hairstyles Walters is given (seven of them, by one IMDB’s count). They go from stylish to ridiculous, and look as though annoyed Walters as much as they annoy the viewer. But the most dreadful feature of this movie is the music (besides the waste of Michael Williams and Maureen Lipman, both of whom have ridiculous roles). The score is played on what sounds to be an Hammond organ and a piano, for the most part. David Hentschel, the composer, never seems to know what he’s about, and gallumps along when he should be sober, and tries out super-dramatic when subtle is called for. Hentschel isn’t as well-known as a composer as a music producer, and Educating Rita appears to have been his last job as a film composer. However, in his other role as a music producer he’s had considerable success, working alongside George Harrison, Elton John, Queen, Phil Collins and Mike Oldfield, to name but a few.