Director: Bruce Robinson
Writer: Bruce Robinson
Verdict: Worth a watch
Possibly the most British British film to ever British, Withnail & I has acheived fame for it’s unabashed sense of fun, joy de vivre, and love of Shakespeare. Withnail & I stars Paul McGann and Richard E. Grant as two ‘resting actors’ who in their own words go on holiday “by mistake” to get out of their Camden flat squalor.
It was funnier the second time round for me, as I was already familiar with the offbeat rhytms of this British gem, but as funny as it is, there are problems. It is a film that relies very much off of the script and the performances. It is both written and directed by Bruce Robinson, (The Rum Diary, The Killing Fields), and he is clearly much better at one than the other, although he’s clearly great at eliciting performances from people, (Richard E. Grant is note perfect at the titular Withnail, and Paul McGann as the only relatively straight man is just as funny). He also dresses the sets in a way that sells the squalour, it’s a film where, like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it’s a film that works because you can feel the dirt. That being said, he can’t edit to sell a joke for his life beyond showing a facial expression at just the right time. This really causes the pacing to be off, it is meandering and there are large areas without jokes, and it is a drama too so that’s not so bad it’s just if it was edited properly we wouldn’t notice. However, what Withnail & I is, is a constantly laugh out loud funny, poignant, Requiem for a generation. More British than a cup of tea.