Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: To sing a better song

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. From time to time, a reflection on the movie will appear below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is

It’s an oldie but goodie, the movie “Educating Rita”. But my, how I love it what with Sir Michael. ‘Course I am speaking Michael Caine. This is up there with my other two favorite Michael Cainers, “Alfie” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”. In this one, he’s paired with the wonderful Julie Waters. They give us two delightful characters.

In the opening scene, Sir Michael is walking a professorial walk onto a college campus, somewhere deep in the heart of England. We can compare this walk with her walk as a woman uncomfortable with her surroundings. She’s wanting more from her life than the usual drudgery of a working class husband and a baby. She’s a hairdresser full-time and a student part time at the university where Caine professorizes. It’s called Open University, the program she is in.

Anyway, back to the opening scene, he goes into his office with its comfortable chair, surrounding with shelves and shelves of books. He reaches for one of the books. It’s “The Lost Weekend”. If you remember, that is the name of the movie where Ray Milland gives up the booze and has one heck of a case of the dts. Behind the book, wallah. A bottle. So now we know that our good professor drinks. Turns out our professor not only drinks. He drinks a lot.

But this is not so much his story. It’s the story of a woman who is trying to dig her way out of a life she no longer likes, a life of low expectations. Have a kid, have a few laughs, get old, die. She wants more. She wants a lot more. Have you ever wanted something so badly that it hurt and the hurt cut deep. That you would give up just about everything to get it. That is Rita’s want. Rita’s bound and determine to get it by getting herself an education. And come hell or high water Sir Michael’s professor’s going to give her the shovel to do it with.

Her soul’s dying where she is at and she sees this professor as her way out. But he’s not about to go along willingly. He’s become a cynical sort of poet. A poet who hasn’t had a decent poem in years. His wife gave him a divorce to give him new material for his poetry. It didn’t work. So here he sits in his professorial office, getting drunk. In walks this mid-twenties woman who wants the world of learning and she expects him to give it to her.

When he tells her to go back where she came from, she says, “We’re all surviving with the spirit in tact.” But you know that she’d like to add, “But that’s about it. That’s all there is where I come from. And I’m not settling. At least, not for that.”

What she ultimately learns from this adventure, what he ultimately teaches her is that all that education cannot disguise the pain of what it means to be a human being. It can only teach her that it takes labor pains to be born into a new human being.

“Educating Rita” belongs to that rare breed of movie about the adventure of learning. It’s in the class with “Good Will Hunting”, “Dead Poets Society” and “84 Charing Cross Road”. It’s about that wonderful relationship that can occur between teacher and student. And, like Dr. Frank Bryant, the poet-professor, it is often the teacher that learns more than the student.

Do you have a favorite teacher? What made them a favorite?