British playwright Andrea Dunbar combined two of her stage plays to create the movie script for Rita, Sue and Bob Too, a movie which, in my family at least, is somewhat fondly remembered as a naughty and gleefully foul-mouthed comedy about an older, married man who starts a sexually-charged relationship with two schoolgirls who babysit his children. 30 years on, the subject matter could be slightly troubling, and it just may be exactly that for some people seeing it for the first time. Yet with the tagline "Thatcher's Britain with her knickers down!" and the socially aware Alan Clarke at the helm, it's clear that the film is much more than a titillating throwback to the Carry On days, and paints an incredibly grim picture of working-class life in Bradford, and of Britain as a whole.
Rita (Downton Abbey's Siobhan Finneran) and Sue (Michelle Holmes) are two bubbly and outgoing girls making some extra cash on the side by babysitting for middle-class couple Bob (George Cositgan) and Michelle (Lesley Sharp). While driving the girls home one night, Bob takes a detour to the moors where he proceeds to have sex with both of them, one after the other. The threesome start a potentially damaging relationship, with the girls having to deal with a troubled home- life and the pressures of school gossip, and Bob coming under scrutiny from his wife, who he has cheated on many times before. As Bob and Rita grow closer and Sue finds herself in an abusive relationship with young Pakistani Aslam (Kulvinder Ghir), close bonds are broken and lives are ruined, when all Bob really wants is to get his rocks off.
It is a film that would never get made nowadays, but Clarke's film never attempts to make any stance on the morality of the characters' actions. For a guy who sounds like a complete scumbag on paper, Bob is a surprisingly likable, if obviously flawed, chap. Rita and Sue are so loud, abrasive and willing to participate in the bizarre three-way that they it's impossible to view them as victims. The picture painted by Dunbar and Clarke of a crumbling Britain in the grip of austerity suggests that the central characters are acting out of boredom and to escape the banality of their suffocating environment. It is a socioeconomic drama cleverly disguised as an old-fashioned sex farce, and succeeds in being socially observant and laugh-out-loud funny. The introduction to Sue's frenetic home- life is a mixture of amusing one-liners and kitchen-sink angst, and this lopsided tone is consistent throughout the rest of the film. With its lack of ethical judgement amidst such a potentially creepy subject matter, Rita, Sue and Bob Too with unsettle some but delight others.