Movie Marathon #4: Withnail & I
How many of you, after watching Withnail & I for the first time, decided to model your life on Withnail? Started swaggering around in a big coat, drinking questionable substances and quoting Shakespeare in the park? Hands up. Right, fuck you all. You’re the reason I can never love this film as much as I should. Because it created scores of establishment-bending wankers trying to emulate Richard E. Grant playing one of the most interminably terrible cunts in silver-screen history.
And it is a brilliant film; dawdling around with pseudo-philosophical bullshit, reveling in the beauty of the English countryside, and constantly spouting eminently quotable lines. Very little happens to shake the earth, and that’s the beauty of the piece; Paul Mcgann’s guileless but neurotically endearing actor brings a wide-eyed innocence to the otherwise very black-hearted little movie. Richard Griffiths (may he rest in peace) is simply fantastic as Uncle Monty, one of the most watching-through-your-fingers lecherous poshos I’ve ever clapped eyes on. And the film is utterly British, in general-with coffee shops, pubs, Shakespeare and the muddy countryside, it smacks of a knowing but ultimately affectionate pat on the head to all the awesome and awful corners of British culture.
But yet. The constant imitation of Withnail is a testament to the sheer comedic force Grant brings to the role; he’s briliant. Shamelessly cowardly, pathetic, dependent, arrogant and pretentious, he represents the one of most toe-curlingly unbearable characters even created, and he delivers every line with a tongue-rolling aplomb that’s simply irrepeatable.
IRREPEATABLE. Get it? Withnail is a vile, vile man; deeply entertaining for a two-hour on-screen dalliance, but no-one you’d really want to have around for any lengthy period of time. He’s a child with delusions of adulthood; a grimly awful man who you’d simply tire of in the real world. So, to everyone who’s toying with that extra-long coat and furniture polish: chin-chin, motherfuckers. Chin-chin.