#39 | Withnail and I 2: Coming Back In Here
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We’ve covered some pretty quotable films on Beyond The Box Set in the past, but this week’s movie may just top them all. The script to Bruce Robinson’s semi-autobiographical Withnail and I is so uniquely bleak, depraved and hilarious that it really deserves to be studied as a piece of classic literature.
In the title role of Withnail, a then-unknown Richard E.Grant instantly cements his place in cult cinema history with one of the greatest and most full-bodied portrayals of debauched alcoholism ever committed to screen. That he succeeds in making this monstrous expression of pure ID not only hilarious but also human and strangely pitiable is testament enough to his accomplishment, let alone in consideration of the fact that in real life Grant is a teetotaller who had never even tasted booze prior to being cast.
As the I of the movie, future Doctor Who Paul McGann may not get as many of the classic lines, but his angst-ridden wannabe aesthete who appears to both enable and occasionally temper Withnail’s excesses is a compelling character study in self-delusion and toxic friendship.
Rounding out the main cast is the late, great Richard Griffiths, who almost steals the whole picture as the ridiculous, lecherous but strangely heartbreaking Uncle Monty, a relic from a bygone age, tormented by regret and unrequited desire. Like all the best supporting characters, it’s easy to imagine an entire movie dedicated just to his character.
Joined by our special guest Sam Chappell of Broken Spoke Bike Co-op, we spent this episode digging deep into the many ways this film has followed us through adolescence and beyond, including the one line of dialogue that’s haunted us for years. We also attempt some less-dangerous alternatives to the Withnail and I drinking game, many of which involve drinking for homoerotic moments, off-the-cuff lies and truly disgusting cooking…
We were all in broad agreement that in the real world, Withnail and I probably doesn’t need any kind of sequel – but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t have some fun pitching some theoretical ones. Tune in to hear what we came up with – including an alcohol-fuelled origin story, a bittersweet sequel and a highly conceptual Fight Club-meets-Inside Out style psychological study in co-dependency and latent homosexuality…
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