Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A-Z Movies, W: "Withnail and I"

Recommended by:
Bree (friend)

Movie Stats:
Released 1987 (USA)
British, in English (some non-translated Latin)
Director - Bruce Robinson
Stars - Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths

Plot Summary:
In 1960s London, two unemployed actors, Withnail (Grant) and “I” (McGann, the movie never names this character but IMDB maintains his name is Marwood), deciding they need a break from their lives, take a holiday at the lake country cabin of Monty (Griffiths), Withnail’s uncle.

Blue language; minor drug use; one scene that treads dangerously close to sexual assault (non graphic).

Bad Stuff:
I found both main characters completely insufferable. Moaning, whining, shouting, passive aggressive drama queens. If I knew people like this in real life, I would avoid them at all costs.

It’s billed as a black comedy but I didn’t find it the least bit funny.

Everything I’ve read about this movie, including the DVD case, describes Monty as “lecherous.” I didn’t see it like that. I actually found this whole story line completely offensive and somewhat homophobic. To get the key to the cabin, Withnail told Monty that “I” was gay and single. While we don’t find this out until later, Monty is working under the assumption that “I” might be interested in him. When Monty makes some rather gentle passes at him, “I” never once tells him that he’s not interested. By the time Monty goes for it, he’s been strung along for a long time. While I will agree that Monty then takes things too far, he does eventually back off and doesn’t continue to pursue “I.” So I don’t really see how that’s lecherous. I really disliked “I” for being such a wimp from the start & not being honest with Monty about being straight.

It features some of the most unflattering underwear I’ve ever seen in my life.

Good Stuff:
I enjoyed Griffiths’ performance. I never really noticed this actor until his turn in the Harry Potter movies (as Harry’s uncle). Once he was on my radar screen, I realized he was in a lot of stuff I’d seen and that he was actually a rather good actor. I’m bummed that he died so young.

The Verdict:
Given all the shouting and over-acting, this really felt like a play that had been turned into a movie. I was genuinely surprised to discover that it wasn’t. The internet tells me that this is a cult classic in Britain. I’m perplexed as to why. There are plenty of “cult classic” films that I love (“Harold and Maude,” “The Warriors,” “Better Off Dead”) but this definitely isn’t one of them. I’m not sure if my friend who recommended this likes it (not everyone recommended movies they liked), but if she does, I hope she’ll swing by and tell us why as a counterpoint. I’d welcome it! As for me, I hated this movie. 

I give it 1 star.


Patricia said...

No counterpoint yet...

I was going to watch it until your comment about the underwear. But that's where I draw the line!

You watched it so I don't have to...

balyien said...

I believed that the tighty whitey was the most unflattering underwear known to man until this movie. Now I know the truth.