British films about sex are fairly rare, and mostly embarrassing: from the painfully anxious (Brief Encounter) to the hopelessly naff (the Carry On films). What a treat then is Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Alan Clarke's filming of a stage play by young Andrea Dunbar. It's an unsentimental, gleefully lewd comedy about shagging. Tagged for its cinema release in 1987 as "Thatcher's Britain with its knickers down", it even provoked a minor moral hullabaloo in the newspapers. Rita (Siobhan Finneran) and Sue (Michelle Holmes) are two giggly Bradford lasses stuck on a ramshackle... housing estate. They keep themselves in fags by occasional baby-sitting for nouveau riche couple Bob (George Costigan) and Michelle (Lesley Sharp). Bob fancies himself rotten, but Michelle has ruled that sex is off the menu. So one night, driving Rita and Sue home, Bob detours to the Yorkshire moors and offers the girls a little something extra in his front seat. Rita and Sue decide to grab it while they can. Alan Clarke's cult following is founded on his bleak, brilliant films about violent young men (Scum, The Firm, Made in Britain). But Rita, Sue is a tribute to Clarkey's ribald sense of humour. It even sports a cameo from novelty pop-act Black Lace, performing their non-hit "Gang-Bang". Teenage debutantes Holmes and Finneran are terrific--just watch them dancing lustily around Bob's red leather sofa to Bananarama. In support, Clarke wisely cast skilled northern comedians like Patti Nicholls and Willie Ross, as Sue's foul-mouthed mum and dad. Amid the laughs, Clarke as usual doesn't stint from showing us the harsh, unlovely side of life. He shot the film on location at Bradford's Buttershaw estate, where Andrea Dunbar grew up and where, tragically, she died of a brain haemorrhage only a few years after the film's release. --Richard Kelly [show more]
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