One of the things that has improved my life greatly in the last week is my addition to a group I did not know existed. It was quite by chance that I came upon the ‘Withnail and I Appreciation Society’; a group whose members leave no turn unstoned (and I really mean that) in their quest to find relevant situations in which to post W & I quotes. Since the whole film is basically one long quote, this is not hard; in fact it would be much harder to find parts which are not quotable. My favourites include:
my thumbs have gone weird
he’s so mauve, we don’t know what he’s doing
we want the finest wines known to humanity. We want them here, and we want them now!
Of course, none of this will mean the slightest thing to you if you haven’t seen the film. So I demand that you watch it now. But in the meantime, here’s a synopsis:
Withnail and ‘I’ are out-of-work actors slumming it in 1960’s London, drinking and smoking pot with a bunch of dope-heads including crazy Danny who rolls an enormous joint called the Camberwell carrot (‘this will tend to make you very high’). There’s an unexplained black man in a bath and in a series of stoned adventures our two heroes borrow the keys to both a car and a cottage from Monty, Withnail’s outrageously camp uncle (Richard Griffiths) and go on holiday by mistake. They eventually find the cold, damp cottage and try to start a fire with a handful of damp twigs (‘the fuel and wood situation’). Monty, unable to resist ‘I’s good looks, joins them in the night and tries to seduce him (‘I mean to have you even if it must be burglary’). ‘I’ only fends him off by telling him he’s in love with Withnail and the two of them have been in a relationship for years.
Richard E Grant’s Withnail is a seriously dysfunctional, self-centred bloke who creates chaos wherever he goes. They are pulled over by police for erratic driving (after which Withnail’s sure-fire tactic for passing a blood-alcohol test fails spectacularly), shouted at by farmer’s wives and the next day enter a smart tea-room in Penrith and demand cakes and ‘the finest wines known to humanity’, whereupon the owner tells employee Miss Blenner-Hassett to phone the police. (It was at this point that Richard E Grant corpsed so badly they had to leave it in.) Withnail sponges shamelessly off Monty while ‘I’ tries awkwardly to be nice to him whilst resisting his advances. In the end they go back to London and the film ends with ‘I’, hair cut and in a smart suit, heading off for an acting job while Withnail watches him go, the in his eyes suggesting that he was in love with him all along. The film ends with him walking across the park and quoting Hamlet’s weary speech: ‘I have of late, wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth…’
I cannot possibly give you any idea of what this film is like, even by posting one or two scenes. You must watch it in its entirety.