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This is a brilliant film. It's also, inadvertently, one of the most delightfully politically incorrect films ever made, especially given the period of its release--the era of high pc, the late 80s. It's best seen on the big screen, not on the tube. The opening scene, with the filthiest sink of unwashed dishes ever filmed, has the proper effect only when it's right in your face, as it was meant to be. Anybody who lived through the decadent phase of sixties/seventies bohemianism will absolutely howl with recognition of every scuzzy (but at the same time tender and hilarious) detail of this movie, from the drawling, sinister, but thankfully semi-retarded from too much pot, dope dealer, and the obese (if solvent) homosexual uncle--a predatory Oscar Wilde-manque type whom Withnail and the protagonist "I" spend the movie manipulating and evading, with checkered success. This movie deals with the period without any sentimentalism or polemical pointmaking one way or the other. It's cultural anthropology of the highest order! Go ahead and dump shelves of pedantic sociological tracts which extoll or condemn the sixties and just see this film. Bruce Robinson is a genius. Robinson's How to Make it in Advertising is a good flick, too, funny and Kafkaesque, but it feels a bit like a film school exercise and, unlike Withnail & I, it preaches a bit.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Two actors who can't find an acting job find themselves living in
squaller. One is a drunk (Withnail), presumably drinking to ease the
pain, and the other (I) is seemingly an under-confident, paranoid man.
They go on holiday to the country (courtesy of Withnail's rich uncle
Monty) to take a break from this horrible way of living. When they
return to London, "I" has received an acting part, and must move away
and leave his friend Withnail in order to take it.
This film is set in 1969, 18 years before it's release, and as a consequence, eagle eyed viewers can expect the usual "that wasn't around at the time" thing which will annoy them, but won't matter to anyone else.
It doesn't have a particularly high budget, as you could probably tell by watching it, but it doesn't really need one. Just as Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian weren't lavished with money, they too are masterpieces of cinema and comedy. These films are prime examples that films that have a £2,000,000 budget can often be more entertaining than those that cost £200,000,000 to make.
This film was a very funny comedy film, probably one of my favourite comedies, with a great cast who many people will probably recognise from their work after this film, very relate-able characters, but just as importantly, a great script. I feel that the ending may make you wonder what happened to the protagonists after going their separate ways, but I personally feel that it ended in a way that makes a sequel very unnecessary. Overall, you won't regret seeing this film.
A cult movie that seems now to be embraced by the mainstream, Withnail
and I is quirky, funny, and occasionally self-indulgent. Cult movies
often are self-indulgent -- that's partially how they become cult
A certain type of person in his or her early 20's is going to discover this film and see so much of himself or herself in it that it will become a signpost for that certain time of life when some people don't entirely know what's coming next, but do know that what's going on now has to end, and soon.
Richard E. Grant's Withnail is a very, very unsuccessful actor in London in his late 20's; Paul McGann's 'I' is a slightly less unsuccessful actor and Withnail's roommate. It's autumn of 1969. They're drunk a lot and stoned a lot. Their apartment is overrun with dirty dishes, rats, and the occasional lovable drug dealer. Withnail cons his uncle Monty (a flaming Richard Griffiths) into giving them the keys to his country cottage. They go off for a restorative weekend in the country.
'I' narrates the film -- writer-director Bruce Robinson based the events on things that happened to him over a five-year span -- with a paranoid, puzzled élan. Withnail, perpetually drunk and perpetually, outlandishly over-sized in speech and gesture, is both frustrating and magnetic. Monty, initially a caricature, grows into a sympathetic character without losing his own out-sized charm. A lot of the humour of the country sequences springs from the utter incompatibility of the two leads with country living -- they might as well be trying to vacation on the moon without spacesuits.
Withnail is the flamboyant, self-destructive, untrustworthy showpiece of the film, while McGann holds down the fort with his befuddled, panic-attack-prone protagonist. To some extent, it's like a Sherlock Holmes movie with no crime.
There's a certain sadness to the end of the film that I imagine a lot of people identify with the end of their college days, and an end to spending huge amounts of time with friends one will soon lose touch with, forever. I can imagine a lot of people hating this film, but those who will like it, will probably end up loving it. Highly recommended.
Possibly, this is a story about moving on from a friendship,
potentially sexual, which is going nowhere, due to the inability of one
of the friends to overcome addiction, and function in an unwelcome
world. So, "Withnail & I" is a little too vague its dramatic
intentions; but, the obliqueness does wind up mirroring Withnail's
character. It gives the film a (perhaps unintentional) eerie quality;
it's as difficult to completely grasp what's going on beneath the
surface as it is for "Withnail & I" to figure out how to exist in
reality. The "Hamlet" ending is great; but, before that, some final
sequences seem abrupt.
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
The film's comedic worth is considerable; it's extremely witty. Bleary-eyed Richard E. Grant (as "Withnail") and bright-eyed Paul McGann (as "I") create exceptional, memorable characterizations. Richard Griffiths (as "Monty") manages to play the "gay joke" without becoming too offensive; saved, again, by an exceptional script. Ironically, director/writer Bruce Robinson delivers to die for roles to two actors playing desperately unemployed actors. Mr. Robinson's script is superb -- and; it's one reason you should plan to watch this film twice.
********* Withnail & I (1987) Bruce Robinson ~ Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths, Ralph Brown
This film should appeal not just to those of us disenchanted or plain
disinterested in 9-5 society, but also to anyone who enjoys a strong
character based comedy.
Set in London and the English countryside at the tail end of the 60's, the
state of mind of the two main characters reflects the mood of the times.
Impoverished actors, Withnail (played superbly by Richard E. Grant) and
(Paul McGann), exist on a diet of drugs, alcohol, and no little insight.
With 'I' as narrator, we are shown a world where days blend together, the most important decisions seemingly being which drug to take to escape their private reality. Their dealer, Danny/Headhunter, ensures that they shall "never be set free".
When the claustrophobia of the city becomes too much, they embark on an ill-advised and poorly planned (to say the least) holiday in the countryside, staying at the cottage of Withnails' rich uncle Monty. Here they endeavour to adapt to life away from the convenience of London. Matters become complicated by unhelpful farmers, the local poacher, and the unannounced arrival of Monty.
We cannot help but to like Withnail, despite the fact that he is almost entirely self-centered and a slave to alcohol. His hedonisitic, live for the moment attitude makes him something of an anti-hero. Many people will identify with the main characters in the film; it is regarded as a cult classic on this side of the Atlantic, beloved especially by students perhaps because they can identify with the lifestyle of these disenfranchised but clearly talented people.
Overall, this has to be one of my favourite films. Though it does sag slightly in the middle, I feel it holds something for every viewer and have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who enjoys subtle and intelligent comedy. It makes a refreshing change from the dumbed down style so prevalent in cinema today. It also boasts an excellent soundtrack which should be of interest to lovers of 1960's music.
Probably the most emminently quoteable film of all time, and one of the most
Amongst the qualities of this wonderful film is it's seemingly endless supply of quoteable scenes and dialogue.
This is a very British film, more so than aimed-at-America productions such as Curtis's "Four Weddings" or anything with Hugh Grant in. I'd like to think/feel that the folks Stateside would appreciate this film just because they won't really be able to relate to it, but I think they'd maybe be missing the point a little. The strange humour may be a little too surreal or "too English" for them.
I LOVE this film. It is one of the very few British films that does not involve either the Monty Python crew/Victorians/posh twits/striking northeners or angry Scotsmen (just one angry Irishman). It can not really be categorised soley as a comedy either, it is quite melencholy, glum and plodding in places.
It was one of the Neuvelle Vague directors, Truffaut I think, who said that a truely great film does not need to maintain as standard a seamless fault of excellence to be seen as a great film. As long as there are a certain number of good, memorable scenes the film, he believed, would still be regarded as great - he cited the much lauded Hitchcock as his example of this fact. Personally I disagree, I feel that quality should be maintained for a film to be regarded as "great" rather than just "good".
And this, I feel, is Withnail & I's one and only short-coming. Some scenes seem to distract from the generally excellent quality of this film. Yes, the film does give the effect of the passage of time, and I's narration emphasises his predicament but I can't see a solution to this as the "plot" is only really an excuse for Grant, McGann, Griffiths et al to have a load of fun and there is no way the film could have a decent running time if such considerable momentum was maintained throughout.
Maybe it's because the films highpoint's are so undeniably excellent and quoteable that these few 'dips' are all the more noticeable - the slightly over-long scene at Monty's being the most obvious candidate for interrupting the film's aforementioned momentum. This same blight in my opinion damaged the Python's "Holy Grail": it probably had the funniest scenes of all the Python films, but "Life of Brian" is more memorable as it is more consistant.
Anyway, this is only a VERY minor quibble. And it doesn't need to be perfect for me to love it, I still find it thoroughly enjoyable.
Whether you're Fifteen or Fifty you should BUY THIS FILM. Even if only to see one of film's most original - but spectacularly unsucessful attempts at beating drink-driving legislation. So, go on, BUY IT NOW, you know you want to. Then go annoy all your friends (if you have any) by mis-quoting it endlessly, nay, mercilessly.
Question: Have you ever demanded "cake and fine wine" in
Does the idea of eating saveloys in the bath appeal?
Smokers: Ever rolled a carrot-shaped cigarette while talking in a slow, staccato London accent?
If the answer is 'yes' to any of the above then chances are you're addicted to this cult 1987 movie starring Richard E Grant.
If you're a newcomer, then you'll probably be wondering what all the fuss is about so here's the lowdown: It centres on a couple of out of work thesps, Withnail (Grant) and Peter Marwood (Paul McGann), struggling to make ends meet during the late Sixties.
Marwood is a thinly veiled version of Robinson, a reflection of the days when he was a handsome young actor perhaps best known for his work on Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet.
The character of Withnail is based on Bruce's late housemate Vivian MacKerrell, an outrageous drunk who Robinson described as: "A wild aristocratic figure, highly educated."
Robinson never achieved star status but went on to make a living as a scriptwriter. When The Killing Fields landed him an Oscar in 1986, Withnail and I got the green light and Bruce made his debut as director.
The star of the movie is a first class coward with delusions of grandeur and a drink problem so severe he'll down a can of lighter fluid in order to get a fix - on the day of the shoot, the production team substituted the can's contents for vinegar, a fact unknown to Grant, which probably explains his stunned reaction.
As research, the director had his two leads go out and get drunk so they would have a "chemical memory" of what it was like for future reference. Grant, a devout tee-totaller, was prepared to suffer for his art and gave the performance of his life.
It may have cost next to nothing to make but the aftermath of Withnail was staggering. Jobbing thesp Grant suddenly became one of Hollywood's favourite 'English' actors - the fact that he was born in Swaziland seemed to pass most movie bosses by.
On the strength of this he went on to work with some of the world's finest film-makers including Martin Scorsese (The Age of Innocence); Robert Altman (The Player) and Francis Ford Coppola (Bram Stoker's Dracula).
Ralph Brown also won millions of fans all over the world as drug dealer Danny. Not least Mike Myers who got him to practically reprise the role for Wayne's World Two and George Lucas who cast Ralph in current smash, The Phantom Menace.
Director Bruce Robinson has fared less well in recent years. His Withnail follow-up, How To Get Ahead In Advertising, was an ingenious flop while US directorial debut Jennifer 8 was torn apart by the studio that backed it.
These days he continues writing screenplays such as In Dreams (another costly flop) and the little-seen drama Return To Paradise.
However, things seem to have gone full circle as Robinson recently made a return to acting and gives a knockout performance as an ageing rock star in recent video release Still Crazy.
As with all cult movies, Withnail and I is choc full of quotable one liners, many of them uttered by Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths) and Danny. Once heard, who could forget the immortal: "As a youth I used to weep in butchers' shops,"? Or Danny's comment on the follically challenged: "I don't advise a haircut, man. All hairdressers are in the employment of the government.
"Hairs are your aerials. They pick up signals from the cosmos, and transmit them directly into the brain. This is the reason bald-headed men are uptight."
This film has been made a cult classic and quite rightly so. Just about
everything in this movie is good, perhaps apart from the music which can
sometimes be annoying (with the exception of the excellent music of the
The cast are excellent and there must be extra credit given to Richard E. Grant who when going to the audition had to compete with such fine actors as Kenneth Branagh.
Very funny and it does have a meaning. I believe that there is a lot of "in" jokes for people in the acting business, but everyone will find their own humor in it - be it such lines as "We've gone on holiday by mistake", or when asked to see the fuel and wood situation Withnail enters with a small twig and when asked what it was the reply is "fuel and wood situation."
A must see for anyone who has ever experienced life as an unemployed actor, or been on the dole, or anyone who appreciates a good funny film.
As soon as I watched this film I knew I had to obtain a copy. Withnail & I
is an absolute classic and is a film that encompasses humour, sadness and
depth. It has also got one of the coolest scenes from ANY film, (that being
the scene where Paul McGann's character Peter Marwood climbs into the car
whilst wearing a 3/4 length leather raincoat, flipping the shade covers down
on his glasses, cigarette hanging from his lips with "All Along The
Watchtower" by Jimi Hendrix playing in the background.
The one liners and other comments by Richard E. grants character (Withnail) are ones of quality and hilarity. They add to the films humour as do the lines from Danny.
Withnail and I has got a brilliant array of characters in it, and even the drunk Irishman in the pub is great to watch with his few number of lines.
I cannot describe the quality of the great British film. Put it on your "favourites list" next to, or around, "Get Carter". All I can say is: If you haven't seen W & I, then what the hell have you been doing since the mid-Eighties, eh?
It's 1969. Broke, depressed, living on methylated spirits (do NOT try
that at home), our intrepid heroes, Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and
Marwood (Paul McGann) endeavour to get away from their dingy London
flat and escape to the English countryside, courtesy of Uncle Monty's
Our two heroes want to be actors, and, being of an artistic leaning (ie, no use to man nor ornament) they arrive at the cottage with no food, no water, no matches, and no idea of where to find any.
This film is not only achingly funny, it is also a satire on the Sixties. The greatest decade known to man is exposed as a vanity project, a mouthpiece if you like for a generation of people who want it here and want it now. Marwood is touched by the Sixties, but in many ways Withnail IS the Sixties. 'I'm going to be a STAR!' he shouts atop a mountain overlooking the beautiful lakes.
On a tiny budget Bruce Robinson manages to capture perfectly what the Sixties probably felt like - or at least what I imagine it felt like. So redolent of its time does it seem I half expected a St Trinian's schoolgirl to wander in to their derelict London pad in a straw boater and stockings. In fact there is a very brief cameo by some schoolgirls in the film. Withnail memorably refers to them as 'SCRUBBERS!'
The two leads are ably supported by Richard Griffiths's Uncle Monty, an hysterically over-the-top has-been, who yearns to tread the boards one more time as Hamlet, despite being nearly big enough to fill the Globe Theatre on his own.
But the best supporting role of all has to be Danny, played by an almost unrecognisable Ralph Brown. The monologue he delivers near the film's end, cautioning his friends about the end of the Sixties and the come-down which is imminent, is both insightful and humorous.
I heard that Bruce Robinson wrote this film as a sort of tribute to a friend who passed away not long after the Sixties had passed. For anyone interested it is well worth the effort of buying the screenplay in book form and reading Robinson's own intro to what has rightly become one of the most iconic screenplays of British - or indeed any - cinema.
The film is almost poetic in both its language, its humour, and its sense of an era which is about to close.
Withnail may well BE the Sixties, but Withnail and I, is surely what Britain has become, a nation that so desperately wants to be a STAR!
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