“We’ve gone on holiday by mistake!”
It’s really futile to try and explain WITHNAIL AND I to someone who hasn’t seen it. This strange and beloved British cult classic – part sitcom, part '50s drug movie, part existential drama – truly plays by its own rules.
The story is straightforward enough: Two out-of-work, drug-loving, alcoholic London actors, Withnail and Marwood, decide to take a trip out of the hectic city and go on holiday to the English countryside, holing up in the cottage of Withnail’s flamboyant Uncle Monty. Once there they realize that being in the country, if only for a few days, is not the relaxing vacation they imagined. The result is pure, unadulterated shenanigans from fighting off escaped Bulls to fending off ol’ Monty’s overt advances.
This was the first feature made by writer/director Bruce Robinson, who later went on to direct the equally original HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING and the Hunter S. Thompson adaptation THE RUM DIARY. While the film’s visual aspects display his shortcomings you hardly notice because his stunningly honest, clever, dry, witty screenplay is what makes WITHNAIL AND I one of the most beloved British films of all-time.
Richard E. Grant gives a legendary manic performance as Withnail and the comedic genius of the late Richard Griffiths turns what could be a one-note role of Uncle Monty into a tour-de-force.
Most comedies made today aren’t funny or original. They simply employ a formulaic premise that tries to create a few laughs here or there, and even then they don't succeed most of the time. That’s exactly what makes WITHNAIL AND I, a film that turns its formulaic setup on its head, such a treasure. (R.J. LaForce)Tweet