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reviews /  member dvd review
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Withnail & I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)
by: Rhys Tranter  02 july 03
rating: rating of 4 and 1/2

"I demand to have some booze!"
Withnail and I is the story of two unemployed actors, living in Camden Town at the end of the 1960s. Desperately seeking an escape from the characteristically mundane existence that has become their lives.

Bruce Robinson writes and directs a fairly plotless, yet strangely compelling character-based story set around the two actors, as they find a release from their small and suffocating London flat - in the form of a blissful weekend out in the country.

Withnail, (played by Richard E. Grant in his debut role) is a bitter alcoholic actor desperately in search of some form of employment. While Marwood, or "I", the narrator of the film (played by Paul McGann) becomes the audience's guide to how the film will transpire.

The on-screen chemistry between the two actors is what makes the film such an interesting, and at times hilarious experience. Withnail and I is one of those films which often appeals to a wide range of people (although strangely enough most often students), for its endless quotability.

As you can imagine, the holiday turns from a good idea to an awful debacle when it is realised that their 'country house' is a decrepit old farmer's cottage. Being 'city-dwellers', they find difficulty in arranging means for food or methods of keeping themselves warm. And the way in which they hassle poachers and farmers alike for the means to sustain their pitiful appearance is tragically funny: "You've got to help us! We've gone on holiday by mistake!"

The holiday runs quickly off course, and comes to a head when Uncle Monty (played by veteran actor in fine form; Richard Griffiths), a relative of Withnail who lent them access to the house, appears out of the blue, and makes homosexual advances towards the oblivious hetereosexual Marwood.

The cast is impeccable, with brilliant performances from Ralph Brown as drugged-up hippy Danny: "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", Uncle Monty, played by Griffiths: "I mean to have you boy, even if it must be burglary!", Grant's Withnail: "I have a heart condition, if you hit me it's murder." and McGann's Marwood: "If my father was loaded I'd ask him for some money."

Withnail and I is a seminal British comedy, offering a rich blend of alcohol, Jimi Hendrix, and first-rate comedy through superb casting and a truly funny script. Well worth your attention... it'll have you quoting it to friends and embarassing yourself in true "sad student" form in no time.

The DVD comes complete with snazzy interactive menus, a nostalgic commentary from stars Paul McGann and Ralph Brown, and a fascinating documentary that charts the film's unique rise to its much beloved cult status.

I'll finish with a quote, which tends to give the feeling of the hopelessness they discover upon embarking on their "care-free" holiday:

Withnail: This place is uninhabitable.
Marwood: Give it a chance. It's got to warm up.
Withnail: Warm up? We may as well sit round this cigarette. This is ridiculous. We'll be found dead in here next spring...

Another one to add to your 'Films to Rent' list.
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