Da Couch Tomato

An attempt at a new layout, with horrible glitches, and very minimal knowledge of HTML.

Withnail & I (1986)

This is the first review of someone who just happened to send us an e-mail expressing her interest to write reviews for this blog. If you want to try your hand at reviewing movies, books, TV shows, or whatnot, mail us at dacouchtomato@gmail.com.

One of the most popular cult classics of the 1980s is Withnail & I – the endlessly quotable, booze-addled tale of doomed thespian Withnail (Richard E. Grant) and his long suffering housemate known only as "I" (Paul McGann). In fact it seems that ‘I’ is based on the director, Bruce Robinson, who also wrote the film as a semi-autobiographical account of his early years as an aspiring actor in London. Robinson also lived with a flamboyant, substance abusing wastrel, Vivian Mackerrell─no prizes for guessing which character he’s based on! The 1980s was one of the most prolific eras in filmmaking history. Advances in technology saw the rise of blockbuster epics, film franchises, and the emergence of teen comedy and cult classics. Some of the highest-grossing films of all time were made in the 1980s (think E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial), and many are still well loved today.

Set in 1969, the film portrays a seedier side of London with its run down pubs, grimy back street cafes, and constant demolition projects. Somewhere amongst all of the gloom are Withnail and "I", holed up in their squalid bedsit and gradually drifting into ‘the arena of the unwell’ as they drink themselves into oblivion and have regular rendezvous with their resident drug dealer, Danny (Ralph Brown). In a bid to escape such wretchedness, the two unemployable (I mean "resting") actors persuade Withnail’s eccentric Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths) to loan them his countryside cottage in Penrith.

However, it seems that the two vagabonds are just as hopeless in the countryside as they are in the city, and by "going on holiday by mistake", all sorts of alcohol-induced dramas ensue. From battling with an angry bull, to making a scene in a quaint tea room, and falling out with the locals ("Don’t threaten me with a dead fish!"), it seems that they’re simply not destined for a quiet life. When Uncle Monty joins the holiday and develops an unwanted interest in "I", things get even more awkward, and with that, hilarious.

The beauty of this film is that it can be enjoyed on a variety of different levels. The fact that the two main characters spend the vast majority of the film completely inebriated is funny in itself. The eloquent yet booze-addled ranting and raving that they come out with makes for a multitude of memorable one-liners which has seen this film become a staple movie in many student households. There’s even a drinking game associated with it that involves drinking what Withnail drinks as he drinks it in the film─considering he downs cider, wine, cherry, whisky, ale and lighter fluid (to name but a few), it should probably be avoided by anyone who values their life and wants to stay out of the hospital or avoid getting a prescription for liver damage treatment or addiction. I doubt anyone who has watched the movie has downed lighter fluid as a result, but as a disclaimer, we do not recomm─ Hang on, do we really need a disclaimer for that?

But aside from the amusing predicaments, memorable quotations, and flamboyant characters, the film also has a touching and thought-provoking undercurrent that focuses on companionship, failure, and waking up (or sobering up, in this case) to the harsh realities of life. Set at the end of the swinging sixties─an era of free love, social rebellion, and highs─it seems that by the end of the film, the characters too are very much aware that the party is over. "I" renounces his boozy lifestyle, scruffy hairstyle, and presumably his destructive friendship with Withnail in order to pursue a more grown-up life of responsibility, productivity, and─heaven forbid─a career! For Withnail, the only thing worse than his jealousy of I’s prospective acting career is the unpleasant realisation that he no longer has someone equally as hopeless as himself to bum around with. Grant’s delivery of Hamlet’s soliloquy at the end of the film makes for a surprisingly emotional climax to what has mostly been a comical film. Some critics don’t like this unexpected twist and would probably have liked to see the film end with Withnail and I both comatose on a park bench after yet another bender. But for me, this gives the film a different and thought-provoking layer and truly abolishes any prior notions about an alcoholic lifestyle being in any way "glamorous"─along with the image of Withnail trudging around muddy fields in his grotty trench coat with plastic bags over his shoes, of course.

In any case, this was the film that launched the career of (ironically, tee-total) Richard E. Grant and saw him embark into Hollywood as a renowned British actor. However in my opinion, he has never equalled his performance as loveable, insufferable, hilarious Withnail.

Mimi is the first non-Filipino writer for Da Couch Tomato. We think she's a woman, and she's British.


Uncle Monty! </3

Paul McGann!

"Sherry?" "Sherry"
"Sherry?" "Sherry"

Not Cherry

Premium Blogspot Templates
Copyright © 2012 Da Couch Tomato