Sunday, September 20, 2009
Day 254: Withnail & I (1986) - Rank 5/5
It's rare for me to watch a comedy and find myself laughing to the extent that my own chortles drown out the dialog on screen, but it happens. Such was the case with this British take on Gonzo reality. I suppose that referring to it as Gonzo might conjure up too much of a "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" image, though there are elements of that vacationing, hallucinatory madness afoot. It was more of a "self-realization" film, focused on a character coming to terms with who he is and where his direction in life lies just a bit later than many of his peers did (a theme that a somewhat similar film, "SLC Punk," handled rather well.
Our unnamed narrator and his rakish compatriot, Withnail, decide that the drudgery of their drug-addled, day-to-day lives needs shaking up, so they decide to escape deep into the pasture lands of rural England to indulge in drugs. But the kink in the works is the owner of their scenic cottage - Withnail's uncle, a flamboyant, retired actor who absolutely adores the narrator. So when Withnail's uncle "accidentally" ends up at the cottage as well, the old codger sets his sites on conquering the young vacationer.
Richard Griffiths, hands down, makes this movie. He seems to revel in the eccentric and licentious behavior of Uncle Monty. His constant attempts at seducing the narrator had me, for lack of a better word, howling with laughter. There are moments of subtle, euphemistic humor, such as asking the narrator if he is adept at handling meat while preparing a meal, to scenes of attempted rape as Uncle Monty drunkenly bashes down a barricaded door, bellowing "Boy! Don't pretend to sleep, boy! I know you're awake and I'll have you yet!" Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann have an entertaining, bickering friendship that has its surreal moments, but never seems to push the limits of reality. And despite moments as low as drinking lighter fluid, the two are endearing, giving a humorous look at the drug culture of the late sixties a heartwarming touch.
Watch the Trailer