Back in the mid eighties, the woman I was dating took a break from dragging me to see her favorite bands, Soul Asylum and the Dead Milkmen, and dragged me to see "Withnail and I," a movie that was playing at The Music Box theater, which was just a few blocks from where I was living at the time. If you've seen "High Fidelity," this is the movie theater that Rob goes to.
It has become, over the years, one of my very favorite movies. The plot revolves around two out-of-work actors, living in London shortly before the turn of the decade, in 1969.
London may be swinging, but they're not. They live in a filthy apartment, in abject squalor. Housekeeping is not their forte. Withnail, played by Richard Grant, is from a rich family. He is brilliant, an alcoholic, lazy, self-absorbed and the best friend and housemate of "I," played by Paul McGann. While waiting for acting jobs, their main obssession is staying intoxicated, through alcohol and whatever means they can come up with, including lighter fluid.
The people in their lives include their dealer, Danny, played by Ralph Brown, a British character actor, who hilariously reprised his Danny character later in Wayne's World 2.
At some point, they decide that what they need to do is have a holiday in the country. In order to do this, they have to finagle the use of the Northern England cabin of Withnail's rich, eccentric, extremely gay Uncle Monty. Monty is played by Richard Griffiths, who has played the evil uncle in the Harry Potter movies.
They make it to the cabin, and run-ins with a poacher, a nearly-deaf lady, a barely-English-speaking farmer and a drunken bartender ensue.
This movie has more memorable lines than Animal House. Among them:
"You've got soup. Why didn't I get any soup?"
"The reason the wanks don't do lighter fluid is that they can't handle it."
"We're not from London!"
"We've gone on holiday by mistake!"
"I feel like a pig shat in my head!"
"Make it dead!"
"We want the finest wines available to humanity. We want them here and we want them now!"
The movie has developed a cult following, particularly in England. On the Criterion edition, which is worth owning, there is a short little documentary about this, and how people who were babies when this movie came out, walk up to the actors shouting out lines from the movie.
It was only available for years on the Criterion version, which my favorite online DVD store, www.deepdiscountdvd.com has for a little over 20 bucks. They are supposed to release a regular version soon, but for my money, the Criterion edition is worth having, for the extras and for the Ralph Steadman poster that comes with it.
I've probably watched this movie 20 times, and everybody I've ever watched it with fell in love with it. There are lots of clips of it on Youtube. I've included one of my favorite parts of the movie, in which Withnail and "I" drunkenly stumble into an effete tearoom.