« Unstoppable | Main | Made in Dagenham »

November 12, 2010

WITHNAIL AND I — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Colesmithey.comPerhaps Britain's most beloved cult film, Bruce Robinson's 1986 semi-autobiographical dark comedy is an obsessively observed character study set during the cataclysmic end of the '60s.

The episodic story revels in Withnail's alcohol-fueled rants of outlandish poetic narcissism and egotistical posturing to mask his lack of talent.

Out-of-work London actors Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and the story's narrator "I" (a.k.a. Marwood — Paul McGann) make the mistake of leaving their squalid Camden Town flat to "go on holiday by mistake" at a rustic cottage in the Lake District owned by Withnail's wealthy, and openly homosexual, Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths).

Uncle Monty's cottage proves as cold as the area's locals who intimidate Withnail and Marwood at every opportunity. Monty's unexpected late night arrival brings cultured conversation, food, wine, heat, and an erotic agenda aimed at Marwood, whose budding sexuality seems to be veering in that direction.

Withnailandi

Richard Griffiths regal demeanor is that of an affected aesthete who believes Marwood to be gay per Withnail's disinformation. Intent on capitalizing on the intimate opportunity even it if means committing "burglary," Monty's romantic overtures toward Marwood drive one of the film's most energetic sequences of over-the-top farce.

Richard E. Grant's inspired portrayal of Withnail (circa 1969) identifies the fiendish character as on par with Hunter S. Thompson for being ahead of the counter-culture curve and equally in need of drugs and alcohol. Dig the Ralph Steadman poster art for this movie. The Hunter Thompson connection is strong. 

Withnail proved a breakout role for Grant's feature film debut. Grant went on to give a similarly inspired performance three years later under Bruce Robinson's direction in another cult gem, "How to Get Ahead In Advertising."

Burglary
"Withnail and I" is a weird time capsule. Music by Jimi Hendrix informs the film's late '60s atmosphere of intellectual and economic desperation. Withnail and Marwood represent British underclass archetypes whose irreverence is their greatest asset and their most damning flaw, never mind that they are unrequited gay lovers at heart.

"London is a country coming down from its trip. We are 91 days from the end of this decade and there's going to be a lot of refugees." Withnail and Marwood are pre-disastered, and hopelessly in love.

Withnail

Rated R. 107 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)


COLE SMITHEYA small request: Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and receive special rewards!

PATREON BUTTON

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Featured Video

SMART NEW MEDIA® Custom Videos

COLE SMITHEY’S MOVIE WEEK

COLE SMITHEY’S CLASSIC CINEMA

Throwback Thursday


Podcast Series