Sunday, May 20, 2012

Two Broke Brits

You know, there's that old story about the country mouse and the city mouse.  The moral of that story, of course, is that the city is a bloodsucking vampire, slowly choking the life out of the country, only to lead to its own inevitable downfall.  Something like that.  In Handmade Films' Withnail and I, two city boys go to wreak havoc on the country, but one of them gets more than they bargained for.  I dare not spoil it any more than I already have.  What does THAT tell you about a 25 year old film?
And yet, I find myself resisting the urge to give it four stars.  After all, what gets four stars these days?  The Godfather, Lawrence of Arabia, The Shawshank Redemption, Manos: The Hands of Fate, what have you.  I'm just not the fan of self-destructive behaviour I used to be, and shame on me for that.  Perhaps that's due to the duo involved.  There's Withnail, the raving drunk, and "...and I" aka Marwood, an obsessive-compulsive type who doesn't seem to enjoy life all that much.  For a second there I was thinking that perhaps they're two halves of the same character, like Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in Fight Club, but I actually took the time to read all of the IMDb trivia about Withnail.  Apparently, Withnail's based on Vivian MacKerrell, who seemed to be the live-fast-die-young type, as well as an unfortunately frustrated actor.  What, no cameo in The Killing Fields?  Where's the helping hand here?
These two share a flat in downtown London and seem to be visibly deteriorating before our eyes, especially in the confines of their messy kitchen.  Marwood does have some input in their collective destiny and he decides they need to get out of the city and go to the country.  Withnail has an eccentric uncle named Monty who has a country home in Penrith.  They get the key after much fuss, especially over Monty's cat, and head out into the rainy night.  I hate to spoil any more, but I will say that Withnail and he barely make a go of it until Monty himself shows up lugging much food and provisions.  However, Monty's largesse comes with a price tag...
My favorite moment would have to be when the two go into the fancy tea shop for cake.  The old man keeps trying to kick them out but Withnail insists on staying.  He breaks out laughing at one point.  God bless Bruce for keeping it in.  It's all about going with the flow, as one of the other characters says.  I believe it was Danny who I remember best from Wayne's World 2.  Surjik must've told him to just do what he did in Withnail.  And of course, being a George Harrison production, it would be frankly incomplete without a George Harrison song, and While my Guitar Gently Weeps will do just fine... just as long as it's historically accurate, hint hint.
Yeah, Bruce Robinson's had an interesting career.  I hope he's doing okay for himself.  Like most people, he seems to have taken most of the Dubya Administration off to find himself.  Well, Harold Becker's the only other one I can think of right now.  Kevin Spacey seemed to go missing as well, Superman 5 aside.  A non-alcoholic toast to triple threat Bruce Robinson, writer / actor / director extraordinaire!

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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