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Meet Jim Dixon, a young man struggling to keep his job in a 1950s English university. Poor Jim has to do everything he can to stay on the good side of his boss Professor Welch, a bumbling old man who invites Jim to his house for a weekend of music and art that Jim finds incredibly boring.
Jim, though, can't refuse. His new university job is already in serious trouble and he can't risk alienating the boss any further. Living with the Welches is a young woman named Margaret Peel, whom Jim is sort of dating because he's afraid that she might commit suicide if he breaks up with her.
Meanwhile, the Welches' party also marks the arrival of the boss's son Bertrand into Jim's life. From the get-go, Jim decides that Bertrand's a pretentious young windbag. Too bad Bertrand's girlfriend, Christine Callaghan, is incredibly desirable.
Unable to handle the boring party and insufferable company, Jim skips away to a pub and gets drunk. Later that night, he stumbles back into the Welches' and falls asleep with a lit cigarette in his mouth. He burns up his bed sheets and tries to hide them before Mrs. Welch finds out. Christine Callaghan comes to the rescue. It's at this moment that Jim starts to wonder if he has a shot with her.
The next time Jim sees Christine, they're at the university Summer Ball. Again, Jim can't stand the boring people around him, so he asks Christine to leave with him. They go back to the Welches' home and make out on the couch. They decide to meet for a date in a few days.
Meanwhile, Jim learns that he's going to have to give a public lecture on behalf of the university history department. His standing in the faculty isn't that great at this point, and it's pretty clear to him that the only way he's going to save his job is if he absolutely knocks it out of the park. The problem is that he's a pretty lazy guy, and he only manages to chip away at writing his lecture every few days.
Worse yet, Bertrand Welch finds out about what Jim and Christine have been up to. He's not happy. Let's just say that he goes to Jim's apartment, and during what must be the wussiest fistfight in the history of literature, Jim ends up with a black eye. Bertrand leaves, and Jim realizes that there's not much time before he has to deliver his lecture. So he's really nervous for his lecture, and guess what he thinks is the best cure for nerves?
You got it: getting really drunk.
So he does just that, then gets up on stage and gives a total train wreck of a lecture in which all his disdain for the university and its faculty comes pouring out.
The university big shots are horrified, though the townspeople and students think it's hilarious.
Next thing you know, Jim's fired and Christine is back with Bertrand. Everything looks really unlucky for Jim. Oh wait; maybe it's not. Christine's rich Uncle Julius suddenly calls Jim and offers him a higher-paying job. Then right after that, Jim gets a message from Christine saying she's about to get on a train for London and she'd like to see him before she leaves. She's finally fed up with Bertrand's antics and decides to give a relationship with Jim a try.
On their way to the restaurant from the train station, they run into the entire Welch family, and Jim gets to laugh in their shocked faces.
Lucky, lucky Jim.