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The film was ___ better than I'd expected.
I think that one's choice of word is sometimes affected by one's mood.This is why,I think,RATHER is used when expressing somthing in the negative or something unpleasant...that was rather callous of you...that was rather bad of her...that was a rather unpleasant statement you just uttered.
However,IMO,QUITE is used to express not too unpleasant notions...that was quite brave of you...I am quite delighted...I quite agree with you on that...
Other examples...He came quite early...(positive)...He came rather too late(negative)I'm quite happy...not I'm rather happy...
Also,I think,RATHER can be used with adverbs of degree...too,very etc but I don't think QUITE can."He is quite too happy to talk"...I don't think it's right...He is quite happy...he is too happy to talk...he is much too happy to talk...he is rather too sad to talk....
I think the 'negative' sense of rather has been overstressed. Rather is not always negative. It can often be used in comparisons, ie to indicate that some quality exists to a higher degree than its opposite quality. In this sense, "the film was rather better than I thought" is a typical example of this use. It could be phrased differently, without a real change in meaning, like this: "the film had more good elements than bad ones, although I didn't expect it would".
Look also at these finds from a Google search:
Mr Hague is doing rather better than his party (link)
Geoff Hoon (Lord Privy Seal, House of Commons)
It might be rather better if, for a change, the Liberal Democrats lived in the real world and listened to the police, instead of commenting on leaked documents (link)
ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
...social science is now rather better focused on some of the most difficult medium to long-term issues facing the UK... (link)
----------------- 'Yes. Rather better than twelve years ago.' 'Rather better?' said Mr Meagles, 'you mean rather worse...' (link)
By the way, a Google search produced these results: -quite better: 53400 -rather better: 215000
Rather can be used with: 1. Negative adjectives: The soup is rather cold. 2. Positive adjectives to express surprise. Here rather changes its meaning to very: it was rather clean: more than clean and more than I expected.