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flick pick | Withnail and I 1987
Directed + written by: Bruce Robinson
Starring: Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, Richard Griffiths
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: comedy

Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: darkly comic, nostalgic
The critic says: / 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: ˝/5

Plot synopsis Withnail and the unnamed “I” are two out-of-work, struggling young actors sharing a run-down, rat-infested apartment in London in 1969. Cynical, semi-aristocratic Withnail can’t understand why he can’t even manage to get an audition, and “I” is a wreck of nerves as he waits to hear whether he’s landed a role. They’ve run out of money; there’s no heat in their flat; they’re sick and tired of scrounging for their bare necessities in life: namely food, wine, and drugs. So they decide that a short retreat from the big, cruel, ugly city is in order, and manage to convince Withnail’s eccentric, gay, and very wealthy uncle Monty to let them borrow his cottage in the countryside. But Withnail and “I” find that the quiet countryside isn’t quite the cure-all to their problems that they’d hoped for. Between the lack of food, their drug-induced paranoia, and the fact that the two city boys have a genuine and unerring knack for unintentionally pissing off and bewildering the locals, the boys soon find that they’re as miserable out in the middle of nowhere as they were back home. Added to which, there’s the little fact  that unbeknownst to “I,” Withnail’s obtained the keys under somewhat false pretenses. When Monty shows up unexpectedly one evening, his boisterous, unwelcome presence throws another wrench into an already rather disastrous vacation

Review Withnail and I is the sort of funny that makes you quietly snort and squeal random delighted “heee!”s, rather than the kind of funny that leaves you rolling on the floor with tears streaming down your face. It’s understated, dry, biting humor that sometimes doesn’t sink in until a few seconds (or a few viewings) after the funny moment’s passed; it’s subtle, not slapstick. In short, it’s very, very British – low on plot, high on eccentric characters, chock-full of wit. Though Richard E. Grant’s manic Withnail is the more outrageously, memorably out-there crazy-funny of the two titular characters – he’s upstaged only by the brief appearances of super-mellow, quasi-philosophical drug-dealer friend Danny at the beginning and end of the story – Paul McGann’s straight man “I” is what lends the movie its sense of poignancy. There’s an underlying layer of genuine sweetness and wistfulness beneath the laughs and silly antics. As you watch McGann’s character evolve from the scruffy-faced, shaggy-haired dirtbag we meet at the beginning of the movie to the clean-cut, fresh-faced young man that waves goodbye at the end, what you realize is that this movie about seemingly nothing is really a movie about the end of an era: on the larger scale, the death of the 60s, on a more personal one, the final days of wild, crazy wonderful youth. —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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