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British film-making at its best.
pjcarline19 November 2001
Camden, 1969. Two unemployed actors, Withnail (Richard E Grant), and I (Paul McGann), are facing up to the reality of an empty wine cellar and a harsh comedown following a speed binge. Squalid living conditions and the prospect of life on the poverty line leads 'I' (otherwise known as Marwood), to suggest a rejuvenating break in the Lake District. After Withnail manages to persuade his bizarre uncle, Monty (Richard Griffiths) to part with the keys of his dilapidated cottage, the take the Jag north for a taste of country life.

Adapting to such an alien environment is an initial challenge to the highly strung Withnail; his predicament is significantly worsened following an altercation with poacher Jake (Michael Elphick). Meanwhile, Marwood is forced to concentrate his attentions to fending off the advances of the lecherous Monty, who has inconveniently come to stay.

Following an awkward evening, the pair hurriedly return to London and, after a run-in with the Metropolitan Police, return to find Danny (Ralph Brown) has made himself at home. Drugged rodents fill the oven while Presuming Ed fills the bath and Marwood is rescued from the mire - it seems he will crack the boards after all. "Congratulations", Withnail says emptily, as he begins to contemplate life without his straight man.

Bruce Robinson deserves high praise for creating a rich, debauched world of weird thumbs, phenodihydrochloride benelex, old suits, uncontaminated urine and the Camberwell carrot. WIth a the tightest of budgets, he brings the late 1960's to life. The script is incredibly witty and eminently quotable. Both Mary Selway (casting director) and Bruce Robinson succeeded in bringing dialogue to life with an impeccable choice of actors. Richard E Grant has never come close to his performance as Withnail - his drunken performances are remarkable. Richard Griffiths is as camp as a hat as the overbearing, exuberant Monty, and Ralph Brown is frequently hilarious as the dangerous but lovable Danny.

This is a film that will never be tarnished by age, and neither is it limited by repeat viewings. It is a very accessible film, despite its largely English humour, and 'Withnail' remains one of the best films about friendship. Certainly a one off, 'Withnail' is a must see film that will not disappoint.
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A Journey back to the 60s with George Harrison
johnsw29 August 2004
Withnail and I is set in an old, run down student flat in London's Camden Town at the end of the 1960's. Withnail and I are a couple of unemployed actors from different ends of the social spectrum.

Withnail is a Harrow educated dilettante, and rather upper crust; his flatmate Marwood is a grammar school boy with a slightly more realistic outlook on life. To escape from the squalor of their grim, unemployed, existence in Camden Town, soaked in a near lethal cocktail of alcohol and drugs, the desperate pair call upon the generosity of Withnail's uncle Montague and secure the use of his cottage in the country for a weekend.

Uncle Monty is an eccentric middle-aged homosexual, who prefers vegetables to flowers. He considers that 'flowers are essentially tarts - prostitutes for the bees', and wears a radish in his buttonhole in preference to a flower. He grows vegetables in pots in his Chelsea house, and makes suggestive references to 'firm young carrots'.

Withnail (excellently played by Richard E. Grant), persuades Uncle Monty (a superb Richard Griffiths) to lend Marwood (a convincing Paul McGann) and him his cottage in the country for the weekend.

Their exploits at the cottage, and in Penrith where they spend their Wellington boot money on booze and try to sober up in a gentile tearoom are memorable, witty and entertaining. The incongruous uncle Monty reciting Baudelaire in the Cumbrian hills, seeking carnal knowledge of Marwood (apparently coerced by the cowardly and treacherous Withnail), are testament to the writing skills and humour of author and director, Bruce Robinson.

The film's soundtrack brings us 'A Whiter Shade of Pale', played by King Curtis on the Saxophone, 'My Friend' and 'Walk hand in Hand', performed by Charlie Kunz, 'Schubert's Piano Sonata in B Flat Major' performed by Leslie Pearson, 'All Along the Watchtower' and 'Voodoo Chile', by Jimi Hendrix, 'Hang Out the Stars in Indiana', performed by Al Bowlly, and 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', by the late lamented George Harrison, who provided much of the financial backing for this memorable film.

This is a thoroughly entertaining 108 minutes of humorous entertainment, a few too many drinks, a convincing 60's atmosphere, superb performances from the excellent cast, and music to make your heart, and your guitar, gently weep. Thank you, George Harrison.
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Who says a comedy can't be intelligent, sad AND laugh out loud FUNNY?
Infofreak20 September 2003
The first time I watched 'Withnail and I' in the late 80s I thought it was pretty good, but that's about it. Over the years, and a few more viewings, it really started to grow on me, and recently rewatching it on DVD for the first time I was struck at how brilliant and unique it is. It's a very subtle film really, and most comedy is admittedly a matter of taste, but if this movie clicks with you you'll most likely end up putting it in amongst your all time favourites. To me it's one of the greatest comedies ever. It's intelligent and sad and genuinely laugh out loud FUNNY, something you rarely see these days. The movie is episodic and seems to ramble on, but it's much more than a shaggy dog story, there's an underlying depth and melancholy to it that makes it something special. Richard E. Grant has never been better than this. Playing Withnail and writing his wonderful autobiography cement his place in film history as far as I'm concerned. Paul McGann is also excellent, and there are lovely performances from Richard Griffiths, Michael Elphick and Ralph Brown. EVERYONE is good in 'Withnail' but it's still Grant's movie all the way. He is just utterly brilliant! 'Withnail and I' is one of THE great British movies, and comes with my highest recommendation.
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Not just a cult classic...a classic - period.
whippetrun24 August 2002
I have a film poster of Withnail & I that has such critical quotes as "Hilarious!" and "Gloriously funny!" and I can't say I totally agree. Don't get me wrong...I loved this film and it remains one of my favorites of all time, I just think these quotes sell the movie as some kind of Monty Python romp...and it's much more than that. I did laugh throughout, but I was also touched and found it quite sad (in a very entertaining way.) I would like to think that this is what Bruce Robinson intended...to make a dramedy...not just a silly romp. Though perhaps a bit slow for some, I thought the pace was remarkable, the acting superb. I have also heard people say that they found the plot lacking...but I argue that sometimes it's just nice to sit back and get swept away by a good character study. Interesting and thought provoking, sometimes referred to as a "cult classic", I say it's just a classic - period. Oh...and great soundtrack. The closing music always gives me goosebumps.
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Classic dialogue makes for a hilarious film
bob the moo10 April 2004
In the late 1960'sm Withnail and our narrator are two unemployed actors who have little chance of being employed. Fed up with their lot in Camden, they flee for a restful break in Penrith in the cottage of Withnail's Uncle Monty. However the facilities, the oddball locals and the advances of Monty put their friendship under pressure.

There is very little I can add to the many reviews that have rightly praised this film as one of the funniest British films ever. The basic plot is not enough to keep you watching and you should not come to this film looking for an amazing narrative - I have watched this several times and never once has it mattered where the film was going, only how it goes there. The joy of the film is a script that is rich in highly memorable and quotable dialogue that will make you laugh out loud. It is crass to let this become a list of lines but if you stood up in certain circles and declared `I demand booze' or `I want something's flesh' then it would immediately be recognised!

Of course, the dialogue would not work if it were delivered badly, a problem that does not exist here. Grant is, and always will be, Withnail; no matter how many stupid adverts he does for shops this is how I will remember him. His delivery is tremendous and he brings the character to life in a spinning fireball of comedic excess! McGann has the less showy part but is equally as good and has to make his character real in order to hold the film together. Support roles are just as well scripted and just as funny - notably Griffiths (you terrible c*nt!) and the late Michael Elphick.

Overall this is simply one of the best British comedies ever made and it breaks my heart to see voter's lists where things like Four Weddings top it! The delivery is great and the writing is consistently outrageous and hilarious. The only downside of this film is that director/writer Robinson has never topped this wonderful movie and looks like he never will.
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Brilliant Brit Comedy
Theo Robertson14 January 2006
Strange to believe that WITHNAIL AND I , a film that is regarded as today one of the best British comedies ever made flopped spectacularly on its initial release in 1987 and maybe it's not too easy to see why . In the late 1980s the British film industry was in an absolute mire and the very phrase itself " British film " made a homegrown audience roll its eyes and think of art-house crap directed by Derek Jarman or Peter Greenaway . Any British film no matter the genre or how good it was always got tarred with the same brush in those days .

Years later actor Ralph Brown ( Danny ) was asked " Why is it a good film ? " to which he replied " Because there's no crap bits in it " which simplifying the truth . WITHNAIL AND I is a very rare type of British comedy since it has been developed to its utmost potential . All too often British comedies of the last 20 years feel like they've been rush released before the script has been used to its full potential but not with this comedy classic because nearly every scene couldn't possibly be any funnier . Everyone has their favourite scene like the one in the Irish bar or the tea room or the one with bull but for me the stand out scene has got to be the urine sample down at the police station . It's also interesting to note that it's a movie without any female characters and feels both homo-erotic and laddish at the same time . It also carries an emotional and poignant impact at the end , something all of us can relate to when our best friend finds a new best friend and we become quickly forgotten

All the cast are excellent but Richard E Grant is nothing short of superb and it's probably his performance as much as Bruce Robinson's smart script . You could argue that because Withnail is a camp , self centered , mincing thespian Grant is playing an extension of himself and while this may be true he's certainly enjoyable to watch here . Ironically enough I'd have thought he'd be brilliant as the title character in DOCTOR WHO but it was co-star Paul McGann who got the role in the 1996 American TVM and what a major disappointment he was . As it stands both actors will probably be best remembered for their cracking roles in this movie
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Perennial Favourite
Pretty superfluous to add to the praise of Withnail & I. If Oscars mattered particularly and, further, went to those deserving, surely Richard Griffiths (Uncle Monty) would receive one for his high camp, yet credible and deeply touching turn. That's the key - it's all too credible, 'cos we've done it. As an essay on the final shedding of a strange inverted innocence for the corruption of 'normal' life with its compromises, self-discipline and grind, unsurpassed, I believe. Likewise for its appreciation of the deep platonic love that can spring up between young men in the trenches of poverty and booze. Everything pitch perfect from the herniating slapstick to the pathos, from the soundtrack to the props, from the rain to the booze and all the way from Withnail... to I. 10/10.
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Role of a lifetime
triskellion13 September 1999
Richard E Grant is simply perfect as Withnail, the addled but undoubtedly well-equipped "actor" on holiday with his pal, the "I" in the title. His soliloquy from Hamlet in the final scene is one of the best readings of that scene anyone's done in film. This is a film with a point, and a great way of avoiding making it too emphatically. I love every character, and every line. When Withnail frantically searches for antifreeze after drinking lighter fluid in a crazed attempt to become drunk, "I" says, "Everyone knows you shouldn't mix your drink!" Superb!
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A Masterpiece::
cursedpiratejack2 March 2005
By far the greatest film ever made!!! Truly shows what can be done with just brilliant writing. There are no car chases, explosions, aliens or superheros. This film touches the nerves of anyone that's ever struggled for something that seemed unobtainable. That naive part of youth that makes us feel invincible. The time of your life when you don't mind going without. The time of your life where your greatest memories will come from. The freedom and irresponsibility of being young. Before settling down and having to be a responsible adult and taking the kids to school. I love this movie, it reminds of a time when all I needed was a beer...
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my absolute and utter favourite film
celtic_kitten4 May 2004
What a film! The one-liners, the names (Monty, Withnail...where else would you find such spectacular names?!) True it does not have much of a plot but what it lacks in plot it makes up for in sheer brilliance of dialogue and wit. I had never heard of this film and then suddenly out of the blue : the people i babysat for told me about it, my friend Sarah began raving about it and then the ultimate shove towards watching it, my sister brought the video home! Now if that is not fate i don't know what is. I will be forever grateful. Richard E. Grant is the epitome of the brilliant character actor(i would put his performance on a level such as Daniel Day Lewis, a fete not known by any other actor in my book)finding an exquisite foil in McGann. Watch this film and if you do not find it in the least bit interesting then so be it you are condemned to be boring forever. But if you do not even crack a smile at the infamous line GET IN THE BACK OF THE VAN!! then i would worry for your future in the art of film watching.
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More than a comedy
thestarsatdawn3 January 2002
This film may now have become the property of students, but that fact should not allow us to stop looking at this film as being anything other than a true classic of British cinema. It is perhaps one of the most quotable films I have ever come across and one could say that it is this fact that has made the film a `cult movie'. The truth of course is, that this film is far more than just endlessly quotable lines; it is far too fine a film to be herded into the cult category. This said, it is the outrageously amusing lines that punctuate this film and the sharpness of the comedy that can survive endless re-watchings, but I prefer to think of it as something more than just a comedy. This is a very personal story to director Bruce Robinson, a fact that comes off very clearly by his outstanding direction. Robinson lived the life of 'Withnail and I' himself in the late 60's and Paul McCann's character being referred to as `I' is no coincidence, Robinson's friend Vivien (who unfortunately died) being the real life Withnail. When you have a film that is so close to the director as this, it always clearly shows. This film is about friendship, it's about loss and it's about what to do when you are out of work actors in the final months of the 1960's. There has been such said about the homosexual references in this film, im sure many believing that Withnail and I have some kind of repressed desire for each other. I certainly do not go along with this theory; it seems to me that they have a repressed friendship, which is finally and movingly realised when Marwood (I) leaves Withnail at the end of the film. This is of course a tragic ending, or more fittingly, the character of Withnail is a tragic figure, who, despite our better hopes, we all know will not cope on his own. Despite what would seem an unhappy ending, it has a kind of raw emotion to it. What we are seeing is not a man about to fall apart, we are seeing a man finally realising his true and brilliant potential as an actor with a searing performance from Hamlet. Only upon watching the film a second time and hearing Uncle Monty announce `it is most shattering experience of a young mans life when he awakes and quite reasonably says to himself 'I will never play the Dane', when that moment comes, one's ambition ceases' that you realise the epic nature of Withnail's ending speech. The real beauty of this film is that you can look at it as deeply as you like, or you can look at it as a film about a couple of alcoholics going on a drinking spree to the countryside. Either way, you can't help but look at it as a truly magnificent piece of work that really deserves to be recognised as more than a `cult comedy'.
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A Faultless Work Of Art
terraplane13 April 2004
Withnail & I is in a class of it's own. I know of no other film whose entire script is quoted ad infinitum by those addicted to the fabulous language. There are no jokes as such, just one memorable line after another. We all have our favourites and you can find many of them on the message boards. But it is the delivery that makes this stuff work so well. The ensemble cast work a particular kind of magic together that is sheer perfection. The characters come to life in such a vivid fashion that you really know these people. Richard E Grant gives an outstanding performance as Withnail, this is the sort of performance that should be rewarded with an oscar, not the kind of rubbish that the Academy usually praise. Paul McGann is the straight man that provides the anchor to the whole film. Richard Griffiths' Uncle Monty is just so brilliantly portrayed. His wonderful lines delivered with perfection. Such moments as "as a boy I used to weep in butchers shops" and "flowers are essentially tarts, prostitutes for the bees" will live forever. In amongst all of this hilarity is an underlying feeling of elegaic regret and despair for lives that have never quite reached their expectations, hopes that have been frequently dashed. As Danny says, they have failed to paint it black. The final scene in Regents Park is almost too much to bear, as Marwood leaves Withnail quoting Hamlet to the caged wolves in the zoo. You realise that it's not funny anymore.A new era dawns for Withnail and us.
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An --- "interesting" movie...
horrorfilmx29 April 2010
I have to reluctantly join the majority who gave this film a thumbs down. I rented it fully expecting to enjoy it so it's not like I didn't give it a fair shot --- I gave it a more than fair shot, sticking with it all the way to the end, but it wasn't easy. There's a great deal of talent on display but it doesn't add up to much. I find the frequent references to WITHNAIL'S "hilarity" truly baffling. I laughed exactly twice during the whole movie, and now I can't remember why. Certainly it's possible to make a good movie about obnoxious losers --- TRAINSPOTTING did it beautifully --- but WITHNAIL reminded me of nothing so much as being trapped on a long bus ride next to an obnoxious bore who won't shut up. You don't want to be rude but man do you want that ride to be over.
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Not half the film it's cracked up to be.
diana-lloyd3 June 2008
There is a touch of 'emperor's new clothes' about the reviews of this film. Withnail & I really is tedious and irritating and someone needs to say so. Two unemployed actors escape their sluttish flat (yes men can be sluts) to try for a cheap holiday in a cottage in the Lake District. Getting seriously drunk in a hotel bar they then act like bullying slobs in a quiet tea shop and we are, presumably, supposed to find this hilariously funny. Hilarious also, supposedly, is Withnail's willingness to betray anyone for his own short-term gain. The only redeeming feature is Richard Griffith's brilliant portrayal of the hapless desperate Uncle Monty. Avoid.
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great debut for Richard E. Grant
SnoopyStyle11 April 2015
It's 1969 London. Withnail (Richard E. Grant) & I (Paul McGann) are a couple of struggling actors living in a rundown filthy flat. They struggle to find the money for heat. Withnail is a constantly complaining drunk. I suggest going to the cottage of Withnail's gay uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths). They are visited by Danny the local drug dealer.

It's a dark comedy. I don't know why but a lot of it didn't connect for me. It's possible that I don't get half of the references. It's also possible that I don't find Withnail funny. Grant is doing a big performance but not a funny one for my taste. I also don't understand their 'friendship'. The homo humor wears out for me. It is however undeniable that Grant shows the power of his acting in his film debut.
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There is no other movie....
bruce-44630 March 2006
There is no other movie that I have seen where almost every line of the screenplay is memorable. This is a beautifully crafted script and many of the lines in the film will live with you forever.

But of course, it is the way the words are spoken that makes them so memorable, and this is where Marwood and Withnail take you through a journey of almost impeccable desperation, confusion, anxiety, freedom and ultimately love, loss and redemption.

It's in this field of complex and beautifully woven emotion that all the aspects of the film become greater than the sum of it's parts.

To hear Withnail quoting Hamlet in the rain at the end of the film is one of the most underrated moments of modern cinematic history-it's stunning.

If you've ever spent time in London, been naughty and been caught in a period of uncomfortable and chaotic transition this is a film that will capture you.

This film is about 'youth, beauty and decay' as Uncle Monty would say.
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I stayed with it and kept waiting for it to get better.
Clothes-Off1 December 2007
I went into viewing this film with the utmost optimism that it would be just as funny and deserving of its high rating on this site as one would expect.

I wanted to like it, and boy did I try to find something redeeming.

The acting was good, and I'm sure many people could relate to living in a nasty apartment and being broke, but that's about it. However, when a film is this unglamorous and unattractive, there had better be a compelling story and dialogue to back it up. There ain't. It just didn't work for me.

Maybe it's because I'm not British (though there are several British comedies I love), or maybe the frame of mind I was in wasn't right. But it's not my responsibility to find a reason to like this film if there's none to be found. I know others like it, and Tracey Ullmann when introducing it on TCM said that it had her "weeping with laughter", but I suspect I won't be the only viewer on whom this films possible charms are lost. (Maybe that's why Ullmann's show never found a U.S. audience if this is her taste.) Well, Withnail fans, I tried. At least give me credit for not turning this off and deleting it from my DVR--as the person with whom I was watching wanted me to. I gave this film every chance, and it gave me nothing back. Two half chuckles at the most, but not one laugh. Sorry.
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Three viewings over two decades. I still don't get it.
oneguyrambling23 July 2011
I don't get it.

I didn't get it 15 years ago when I first saw it.

Didn't get it 5 years ago when I revisited to see if my 'missing the point' was due to previous immaturity.

And I don't get it now.

Withnail and I is the tale of two out of work, down on their luck, constantly searching for a cheap and quick high actors who live in squalid conditions and manage to cadge a free 'holiday' in the country out of Withnail's well to do Uncle Monty.

As I see it (and I may be wrong) the entertainment comes from their awkward interaction with a society that doesn't understand their eccentricities, and the fact that wealthy Uncle Monty is flamboyantly gay and is constantly trying to pork the non-relative of the duo.

Withnail is overly dramatic about everything, most frequently the lack of fine alcohol or drugs and an absence of creature comforts. He is in a constant state of displeasure and discontentment, and seems to be eternally coming down from something, meaning he teeters on the verge of either total collapse or vicious attack. This leads to his constant search for a new fleeting high from something, anything, and verbal lamentations when this chemical or alcoholic relief is not immediately forthcoming.

I can see how much of his dialogue is perceived as being 'quotable', but can't fathom the pleasure or amusement that one might derive from hearing it again and again, or worse from repeating these well-worn phrases and statements.

And 'I' is never named. He exists around Withnail, though trails about in his wake is perhaps more apt. When Withnail scores – be it drugs, grog or food – he is there. When Withnail collapses he cautiously tries to take charge… at least until Withnail storms back.

I mean as I see it that's about it. I can hardly think of a single scene that remains with me aside from the afore-mentioned male on male possible rape scene – and rest assured that was because of me seeing the discomfort rather than the humour - and while Withnail is indeed a whirlwind and a genuine presence (Richard E Grant in his debut and defining role) he doesn't say anything of sufficient magnitude or wit to stick to my ribs.

To me Withnail and I is a two hour exercise in waiting, waiting for either entertainment or something memorable to arrive. I've waited three times now, it isn't coming… Final Rating – 5 / 10. After three viewings over two decades I still don't get what others so obviously do. I'm afraid now I never will.
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I was underwhelmed by this film the first time I saw it.
Dan Rooke8 May 2006
The first time I saw this film I was expecting the finest of British comedy. I was left pretty disappointed by it. I was about 12 at the time.

A few years later (I was about 15) I watched this film again and absolutely loved it. Since then, I have considered this film to be my favourite film of all time (I'm 26 now).

This is said to be one of the most quotable films of all time - and it really is! I couldn't even start to say which is my favourite one! Whenever I recommend this film to people, I always say that it might not blow you away first time round. But once you've watched it and given it a second chance - you realise the sheer genius in this film.

Richard E Grant is the most convincing alcoholic ever - and the actor himself is allergic to alcohol and so never touches the stuff.

Paul McGann is one of my favourite actors, and he is the perfect on screen contrast to Withnail's neurotic ramblings.

This film is much more than a film about booze, drugs, and unwanted gay advances - above all it is a film about friendship.

I can't recommend this film enough.
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Smashing Comic Surrealism
Being a student at Public School, I am well aware of "Withnail and I's" cult status and I had some idea of the sort of lines that were I was about to be exposed to, particularly as they had been constantly quoted to me ever since I arrived at Public School. But nothing had prepared me for what was to follow.

London, 1969. Two out of work actors, Withnail and the anonymous "I" decide to escape the grot of their flat and the growing tea bags of their sink for a week at their Uncle Monty's cottage in Yorkshire. However when they arrive there they realise that they've gone on holiday by mistake and that, not only did they have hardly any food or fuel, but that they have attacked a local whom they believe to be homicidal. What follows is drug, drink and insanity fuelled romp through the country and back to London.

Bruce Robinson's script is brilliant. Filled with fantastic comic set pieces and superb lines, this script has so many quotable pieces that the audience is left rolling in the aisles and yet wonderfully touched by the ending. The characters are wonderfully constructed but it is the performances that give them and the film a fantastically sharp edge. Richard E. Grant is joyous to watch and unforgettable as the eponymous Withnail. His performance is made even more astounding when you consider that he is teetotal. To weigh against this surreal drunk is the down to earth, but similarly inebriated, "I", played superbly well by Paul McGann. His sensitive performance is glorious to watch. Richard Griffiths is also strong in support of the two leads as the raving homosexual Uncle Monty. The film is also supported by fantastic music, notably Jimi Hendrix's version of "All Along the Watchtower".

Brilliantly funny and superbly well acted, "Withnail and I" is a deserving cult classic that will stand the test of time.
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"We've gone on holiday - by mistake."
Richard Burin11 June 2010
Withnail & I (Bruce Robinson, 1987) has one of the great scripts, with skies that are "beginning to bruise", a landlord "who was coming over all bald" and a pair of heroes who "are drifting into the arena of the unwell". Paul McGann is "I" (the script calls him Marwood), a mild-mannered actor who decamps to the country for the weekend with boozing, carousing flatmate Withnail (Richard E. Grant) - an eternally inebriated bull artist and wannabe thespian - and the unwelcome Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths). There they battle against supposed starvation, fear grown of disorientation and alcohol, and the advances of predatory homosexual Monty, who has his eye on I.

The plotting is virtually non-existent, but the dialogue is sensational and Grant's theatrics as the gaunt, wild-eyed Withnail are the stuff of legend - culminating in a heartbreaking spot of Hamlet in the pouring rain. McGann, in his more restrained part, is also superb, while Griffiths oscillates between being affectingly vulnerable and hilariously irritating and weird with admirable regularity. Though there are moments of conventionality that jar with the brilliance frequently dripping from Robinson's pen - including some "fish out of water" stuff that could have come straight from The Egg & I - and Ralph Brown is a bit one-note (and a bit much) as a frazzled drug dealer, there isn't a half-minute that passes without some moment of borderline genius or a disarmingly hysterical joke. Though superficially dealing with excess and the foreign nation that is the English countryside, Withnail & I is really a film about self-destruction, self-delusion and friendship, as one young man heads for the big-time and another for the alcoholics' ward. As a comedy, it's virtually matchless - as a tale of lost dreams, heartbreaking.

Trivia notes: Robinson boiled down three years' of experiences in a shared flat in London to a narrative spanning two weeks. Withnail is based on Vivian MacKerrell, a friend who talked about how he was the best at everything, "but never did anything" - in Robinson's words. Uncle Monty was famously inspired by the writer-director's experience of working for Italian filmmaker Franco Zeffirelli, who supposedly pursued the boyish Robinson after casting him in Romeo and Juliet. The line: "Are you a sponge or a stone?", is apparently ripped from that encounter.
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Absolute masterpiece
prima_pimpernel11 August 2005
This film is a masterpiece. A MASTERPIECE. There is not a single line out of place, every word is perfectly crafted and integral to the film. Richard E Grant is stunning in his role (Withnail), it is not surprising that it earned him so many more. Equally perfect is Paul McGann (I), whose connection with Grant is captivating. Both are extremely talented and diverse actors who are amply deserving of Richard Griffith's excellent performance (as always) as the raving homosexual Monty. I have never seen a film that has delighted me so much in its every single aspect as this does. Bruce Robinson is a pure genius whose work cannot be enough extolled. 'Withnail & I' should be shown to every single drama student and revered as is Shakespeare for it is no less poignant, subtle and hilarious - in fact far more hilarious! I repeat... A MASTERPIECE!
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Cannot please all of the people all of the time!!
kevandeb18 January 2006
Fulsome praise is indeed warranted for this funny/sad/touching/anarchic jaunt into the English (small e) countryside. i cannot add much more than all the comments here, and i HAVE read them all. suffice to say that the negative comments are somewhat surprising? the irony is that country folk are usually depicted as fish out of water when visiting the 'Big City' and it is far more amusing watching a neurotic and alcoholic out of their depth in the countryside. i am a big fan of Nicolas Cage, but cannot for the life of me see how his performance in Leaving las Vegas warrants an Oscar above Richard E Grant's sublime performance. truly one of the greatest character performances of all time. A shame this is not appreciated more globally, but i am sure there is many a film from other countries i am sadly missing out on. i could list many films i enjoy that people MUST see, it is testament to the scriptwriting, acting & sheer roller coaster ride from sad to ridiculous that this would probably be the ONE MOVIE i would recommend to any person not familiar with the British film industry. GO BUY IT OR RENT IT. You will not be disappointed. 9/10
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Good but NOT great
martind43-111 September 2007
I've seen this film about 3 times now, it's a good film but not great. It's treated by many people as cult classic. On that basis, it is overrated. Saw it at the Glasgow Film Theatre tonight with a few friends, thought I'd give it another chance. There was a number of people in the audience in fits of wails of laughter, and actual applause at the end. It's not often that happens, but once again, I did not see that it merited that reaction, and my fiends thought the same. It's definitely got a few laughs, mirth, and a lot of scenes which bring a wry smile, but not the stuff of legend. Paul McGann and Richard E Grant gave good performances, and Richard Griffiths was fine as Uncle Monty. So although enjoyable, it did not convince me as to why it receives such adulation. Guess its just each to his own.
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Utterly great.
miscounted_time7 January 2006
I'd heard this film mentioned a few times, but surprisingly I hadn't heard about just how good it was. I saw it for the first time on TV last week. I sat up to watch it and as the credits rolled I immediately found myself wanting to watch it again. Two days later I bought the DVD and I've watched it four times in one week - partly because I've been looking for distractions from studying for exams, but mainly because it's endlessly entertaining. It really is a gem, one of my favourite films now.

The script excellent. There is a perfect balance between hilarity and pathos. It's darkly funny; however, some scenes are just dark without being funny and are merely engaging. All the actors are very good but of course I can't review this without commending Richard E Grant's amazing turn as Withnail. He manages to make a belligerent, selfish drunk come across as lovable. I read that Grant is in real life a tee-totaller. Simply a great performance, no doubt about it.

In a nutshell, it is a film about life, friendship, love (I'm sure there is love), dependency, and above all, I think, being wasted - and by that I mean both excess of alcohol and the waste of talent like Withnail's. That powerful closing scene is brilliant and saddening. I've started spreading the word about this film since nobody I know has heard of it and already I've made my brother and one friend love it too. I just wish I'd watched it before now, because it seems to get better with each viewing.
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