Endlessly quotable, touching, and funny, "Withnail & I" is a British cult classic about friendship, acting, and alcohol. Lots of alcohol. Prepare to enter the arena of the unwell.
Withnail (Grant) and 'I' (McGann) are two resting actors, scraping a living at the fag-end of the 60s, holed up in a rat-infested London flat that looks like it last saw a duster sometime in 1749.
In desperate need of a change of scene, they persuade Withnail's gay uncle, Monty (Griffiths), to lend them his remote farmhouse. But the city boys are hardly equipped for country living, and 'I' doesn't exactly appreciate Monty's overly close concern for his welfare.
Bruce Robinson's debut as writer-director is a must-have for every student household, but don't let that put you off. The semi-autobiographical script is more than just an ode to getting wrecked.
Robinson based the film on his own experiences as a young actor living with elegant wastrel Vivian MacKerrell - a talented eccentric who eventually managed to drink and smoke himself to death.
The film raises smirks to belly laughs every other minute, but the chuckles give way to surprising pathos in the Shakespeare-quoting closing scene.
Grant - a teetotaller - delivers the performance of his life as the doomed thesp, whether it be demanding the "finest wines available to humanity", downing lighter fluid, or feeling like a pig shat in his head. Withnail allowed him to cruise into Hollywood as their resident Brit (although he's actually from Swaziland) and he's never equalled his turn here. Neither has Robinson.
"Withnail & I" has an air of authenticity only reality could give, and Robinson could only tell MacKerrell's story once. There could never be another Withnail.