Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Withnail & I
Today I watched Withnail & I, directed by Bruce Robinson in 1987. It's a different sort of film, but I really enjoyed it. I really, really liked the characters and I had a blast watching them. Withnail and his friend ("I") were really funny and I liked their little escapades. I mean, it wasn't like it was constantly funny - there was that weird nagging feeling that if these were real people, their behavior would be incredibly concerning. However, since they weren't, I found myself enjoying in on a surface level on more than one occasion.
So, in the film, Withnail and his unnamed friend ("I") decide to get away from the disgusting city and take a much-needed (apparently, as both are unemployed and basically alcoholics) vacation. They travel to stay with Withnail's uncle Monty in his cottage in the country. Of course, when they arrive, it's not what they were expecting. It's rainy all the time and they basically have to rely on their survival skills to get by.
I really fell in love with the characters. They aren't really the best people in the world, but I sort of liked them. Withnail takes a lot of risks, drinking constantly (even once drinking lighter fluid, and only stopped before moving onto antifreeze because "I" cautions, "Don't mix your drinks!"), and really alienating those around him. He's kind of a jerk to everyone, but I guess I sort of enjoyed his audacity. He's not stupid, either, often quoting literature and being extremely witty. I don't know why I liked him so much. Maybe because, immaturely, I can see a twisted appeal in his way of living. I guess it's not so much the part where hes drinking himself to death, but the idea of it - of not caring if you insult people in public, not worrying about your health or your whatever. Eh, I don't know, I'm a pretty bitter person so maybe just the idea of being able to be freely nasty is a bit appealing to me.
I feel like Ebert and I watched a different movie, but his own life experiences surely affected his viewing. He writes mostly about the gloom of the movie. I certainly noticed the gloom, but it was so watchable still. It wasn't trying to teach a life lesson or make a statement about what we were watching. It was funny and witty despite the subject matter, and I really appreciated that. I'm having a hard time explaining how I feel about the tone. It reminded me of how people who have been through tough times are sort of the only people entitled to joke about them. I'm sure if people overheard the way I talk about some of the things that I've been through, they might laugh, but they might be a little disturbed. It's drama to anyone who hasn't survived it. Since I did, it's just another thing you have to live with, so you might as well try to have a sense of humor about it, you know? Maybe it's something similar with the director, who used many of his own personal experiences in the film. I'm not sure I'm making much sense here.
I wish I was awake enough to write something intelligent about why people like movies about subjects like these. By all means, there isn't really anything that should be funny about people living their lives destructively. Maybe it has something to do with the appeal of seeing a life that you might not be able to live, like how I was saying I sort of find something appealing about Withnail. I can't just snark at everyone I see, or drink everything in sight - I have worries, responsibilities. It's a little fun to watch characters who don't worry about these things, by choice or otherwise. Maybe we can relate, either from knowing someone destructive or from being so ourselves. I could keep making assumptions, but really, the point here is that it's a really good movie. It deals with something gloomy and serious without lecturing, and has great, memorable characters in it that I know will stay with me for a long time. And really, it's just such a funny, witty movie - the memorable dialogue is both truthful and really hilarious. It's good stuff.
Have any thoughts on Withnail & I? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Withnail & I
Buy it on Amazon