Let me first disappoint a number of people by saying that I watched Withnail and I because of Russell Brand. I listened to his radio show/podcast and he mentioned Richard Griffiths as Uncle Monty a number of times. He even “interviewed” Griffiths on his show mainly because they worked together in Bedtime Stories. So with that in the back of my mind I always wanted to see this. Brand made it sound like an amazing thing.
Withnail and I was not what I was expecting. It’s a very odd film in a way, though I have to kind of back off of my criticism of the film due to my mood. There are movies I love that I disliked the first time I saw them because I was tired or just in an off mood. My viewing of Withnail and I was in a tired mood which I regret seeing the movie in. It is a dark film and while it is funny, chances are it’s not going to be a great pick me up unless you’ve seen it on better terms before.
Like a lot of British comedies (or at least the ones everyone raves about) Withnail and I relies on a lot of wit and wordplay. It is incredibly easy to miss a lot of the humor that way so make sure you listen. As food as the physical performances are, the words stand up on their own. The actors merely give them more life and punch.
An example of whether you’ll like this movie can be seen through a scene like the following. Marwood or I (Paul McGann) is trying to avoid Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths) who is a homosexual and has been flirting with Marwood for some time. It’s night and Withnail is passed out drunk and Marwood is doing his best to avoid Uncle Monty. IT essentially gets to the point where Monty bursts into the bedroom and basically says in less harsh words that he wants Marwood so badly that he will essentially rape him. Uncle Monty is naked except for a silky robe and Marwood is in his tighty whities. Now this can either be seen as a very disturbing scene or incredibly funny. It is a dark comedy and the performances are rather straight so it is easy to see it as a far frightening moment, however it is meant to be funny and it is.
The movie is a dark comedy that can easily just be viewed as a depressing drama. The main character really is Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and he is a tragic-comic character and it can be hard to see past the tragic part at times. The dual quality of the film is actually kind of what makes it as great as it is. The movie is rather deep. It’s more than just a movie about two dudes bumbling around in a cottage.
I grew into the film and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it more with repeated viewings. Defiantly worth a second chance if you aren’t laughing at loud the first time.