Withnail & I

Tagline : If you don't remember the 60s don't worry, neither can they.

Runtime : 108 mins

Genre : Comedy Drama

Vote Rating : 7.3/10

Revenue : 1.5 million $ USD

Plot : Two out-of-work actors -- the anxious, luckless Marwood and his acerbic, alcoholic friend, Withnail -- spend their days drifting between their squalid flat, the unemployment office and the pub. When they take a holiday "by mistake" at the country house of Withnail's flamboyantly gay uncle, Monty, they encounter the unpleasant side of the English countryside: tedium, terrifying locals and torrential rain.

Cast Members

Reviews

Bought this on DVD for a £2 on a second-hand market stall a couple of years ago, then upgraded it to blu-ray a few months ago when I saw it on sale in HMV for a bargaintastic three quid. Yet I'd never got around to actually watching it. I'd bought it (twice) off the back of it being this enormous cult classic weighed down with critical praise (Wiki tells me that the readers of Total Film magazine voted it the third greatest comedy film of all time in 2000 and the 13th greatest British film of all time in 2004, it was ranked 38th greatest film of all time by Channel 4 in 2001 in their 100 Greatest Films poll, an Observer poll of 60 eminent British filmmakers and critics voted it 2nd best British film of the last 25 years in 2009, it ranked 118 in Empire magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Films of All Time in 2008). Anyways: This film has so far mugged me for a fiver. 2/10, and I'm being generous. What a pile of rubbish! "Third greatest comedy"?!? I would never EVER in a thousand years pegged it as a "comedy", under any measurable criteria. It wasn't just trying-yet-failing to be funny, I wasn't even aware it was trying to be funny. Literally, the ONLY funny thing about the movie was how anyone on Earth could have thought this was a good film. Basically: It's the late sixties, and two posh, "luvvy" actors (the titular "Withnail" and "I", played capably enough by two posh, "luvvy" actors: Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann, respectively), living in absolute filth like a couple of retards - I mean, they don't seem to have any understanding of how to operate, say, the kitchen sink - decide that they need to go for a break in the countryside, at a cottage owned by Withnail's gay uncle. They go, it pisses down ceaselessy, they fail to get on with the natives simply because they're such unlikeable morons, then the gay uncle shows up and spends the rest of the movie creepily and ceaselessly trying to gay off with Paul McGann's unnamed "I" character. They go home, they tolerate a drug-dealer and his friend who have broken into and taken up residence in their house, "I" gets an acting job offer and takes off. The end. Utter rubbish. In fact, I'm making it sound better than it is. Reading it back, it sounds vaguely like an admittedly particularly poor episode of Bottom played dramatically rather than for laughs, and although there are shades of the Rick/Rich character that Rik Mayall has played his entire career in Richard E. Grant's performance, Withnail & I is NOT even as good as a poor Bottom episode. And I didn't like Bottom either, especially.

A beautiful, dreary and funny film. At times subtle and others direct. Deeply contemplative with majestic scenery and an atmosphere of grey. Sardonic humour with believable, excellently acted characters and scenarios. It's the greatest film about friendship and only gets better with each viewing. The direction is purely cinematic and shows rather than tells. A Masterpiece.

**It's a good film, but it's very damaged by the abuse of alcohol, drugs and tobacco, and by the weakness of the script, in terms of narrative.** I expected a lot more from this movie, I have to confess. It is considered by many to be one of the best British comic films, and there is no doubt that the dialogues and situations were extremely funny, and it is not difficult to laugh at the absurd situations and conversations that are observed here. But it's also no lie that the film is far from being a work of perfection. The script is based on the coexistence between two characters, Withnail and another boy, whose name is never mentioned, and who supposedly tells the story in the first person. They are two aspiring actors, absolutely failed, penniless and sharing expenses and an apartment in Camden during the late 60s, that is, in the midst of the cultural revolution and the golden years of drug use. Tired of the rot in which they live, they decide to go to the country house of a Withnail's uncle, not knowing that the place is inhospitable for the city dwellers. The film has its moments, and this is largely due to a well written set of dialogues and absurd situations. Particularly memorable is the way in which Withnail practically deifies alcohol, not being able to remain sober for a minute, or the way in which he decides to go fishing with a shotgun, or even the journey of the two friends, in a beautiful old Jaguar that is truly a shame to see so mistreated. Unfortunately, the script and story don't go much further than this, and there isn't much material to support the film. On a narrative level, it is decidedly a very weak film. However, I was able to easily deal with it. The film will only be as good as the audience is willing to “let it flow” without thinking too much about it, simply taking advantage of the many comic opportunities created. More than once, I felt that the film would work perfectly as a stage play, even more so than in the cinema. Very difficult to digest, however, is the constant apology for alcohol and drugs. I am sure that this was not the intention of the producers, but the fact that the characters are under the use of these substances for so long can really bother current audiences, who view the abuse of alcohol, tobacco and drugs in cinema less sympathetically. I tend to be quite open about this, but several times, in several scenes, I felt that the film was treading on dangerous ground in this regard. The film has a reduced cast and only three actors deserve a mention. Richard Grant and Paul McGann made their cinematic debut with this film… and what a debut! Grant, perhaps without ever having imagined it, had the role of his career in this film, as no other work of his was as popular and as remarkable as this one. McGann was also very good, although he is not able to compete much with Grant, who has a much more intense and complex character. The late and late Richard Griffiths also appears here and plays a small role, but one that is very well done. The film is not brilliant on a technical level, but there are some points I would like to highlight, the cinematography being the most relevant of them all. I don't know how this was achieved, but it is very evident that the film was able to emulate the look and characteristics of a film made in the 60s. I believe that the secret was in the light, in choosing the right film and the most suitable camera, as well as a good set of costumes and props. I especially enjoyed seeing Withnail's costume. In his clothes, he looks like a seedy, broke, alcoholic Mr. Darcy. There are also some visually notable scenes, like the roadside scenes, or the scene where the two friends leave Monty's house, and we see the stately demolition of an old Victorian house behind them.

Just what exactly was it lurking in the sink? Probably best not to know as we meet the dipso "Withnail" (Richard E. Grant) and his marginally more respectable pal who'd be the "Marwood/I" (Paul McGann). Two "resting" actors who haven't tuppence to rub together. A visit to his gay uncle "Monty" (Richard Grffiths) provides them with some fine wine and with the key to his remote country cottage where they duly adjourn for an holiday. They don't exactly fit in, indeed having no money, firewood, fuel or much of a clue just antagonises the locals. The bracing country air - and the relentless rain - just isn't for them, and their situation only gets worse when "Uncle" comes a calling and takes a bit of a shine to the frankly rather terrified "Marwood"! What happens next? The first hour of this is great fun, with Grant and McGann working well together delivering a pithy and ripe script that is peppered with quick-wittedness and dry humour. I'm not sure just how much acting Griffiths was actually doing here, but he steals the scene every time - especially as he closes in on his would-be, hapless, prey in the middle of a thunderstorm! Plaudits also to their mate "Danny" (Ralph Brown) - a sort of urban sophisticate who's permanently stoned! The cast is tightly knit and though it does lose steam towards the end, I reckon it's still one of the best examples of comedy reflecting a side of 1980s Britain that steers clear of the obvious Mrs. Thatcher-bashing, but still offers quite a keen assessment of the triumph of expectation over hope! It's worn well, and is still enjoyable!

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