I happened to see Educating Rita on television last night. Made in 1983, it’s a completely brilliant, uncomfortable, hilarious movie that punctures the British class system – from all angles – with unrestrained glee. It proved an interesting prequel to 2011′s The Intouchables, which I saw on dvd later the same evening.
Both movies cover similar tales, with similar themes, handled in largely similar ways; a wealthy but afflicted upper-class type receives life lessons and ultimately absolution, through an unlikely friendship with a salt-of-the-earth, force-of-nature, working class hero. Think Driving Miss Daisy or Will Smith’s hokey sidekick in The Legend of Bagger Vance.
Now don’t get me wrong; my heart absolutely loved The Intouchables – it’s hugely good natured, entertaining, laugh-out-loud funny, and I think well-meaning. Francois Cluzet, who has to act only with his head and face, is brilliant, and Omar Sy as the hired help is utterly winning. But in spite of this, my head still reeled somewhat from the more patronising Rita-esque comedy of class (let alone race, which caused the bigger consternation State-side.) The Intouchables filmed in Paris.
They say nature abhors a vacuum. And in the immediate aftermath of The Avengers and the shocking alien attack on New York (yes, shark, jumping, etc. etc…..and amazingly no-one in this movie even vaguely thinks this is strange) RDJ’s Tony Stark is having a bit of a meltdown. He’s obsessed with his suits, he’s ignoring his girlfriend and he’s having panic attacks at the milkbar. And into this vacuum slips the ferocious, scary and utterly deadly Mandarin, a world-class villain who’s missing a world class hero. Factor in some genetic meddling, a dodgy politician or two, a mad scientist, some human bombs, a former love interest and a smart kid, and you’ve got the makings of a pretty entertaining movie.
Did I like it? Yes, enough. The supporting cast – Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, Gwynnie Paltrow – were fantastic. Pacing, cinematography, big explosions, great! But I really just couldn’t ever get past Robert Downey Junior hamming it up like Nick Cage on crack. I found myself repeatedly unable to suspend disbelief while he was showing off just how clever and funny and entertaining he is. Entirely spoiled the whole movie for me.
A couple of other things about the film. 1. It filmed in North Carolina, courtesy of the NC State Incentives. The impact of this one film on the local economy is outrageous – $179.8 million in direct spending with 719 vendors in 84 communities across the state – $104.1 million spent directly on 2,043 jobs for North Carolinians. 2.) Separate Chinese scenes were filmed for the growing Chinese audience (one of the Chinese characters heals Tony Stark with acupuncture!). More here.