Bruce Robinson’s legendary cult comedy stars Richard E. Grant as Withnail, who’ll drink anything (including lighter fluid) and Paul McGann as the “I,” who can match him pint for pint and bottle for bottle. Both underemployed actors, they escape freezing London for a country-cottage vacation that turns into a comic disaster. “We’ve gone on holiday by mistake,” is one of the film’s endlessly quotable lines. So are “We’re not drunks, we’re multimillionaires,” and “We want the finest wines available to humanity, we want them here, and we want them now.”
Grant’s famously florid performance made Withnail the signature character of his career. He’s that friend we’ve all had whom we forgive even though his crazy schemes repeatedly get us into trouble. He’s also that friend we all eventually outgrow. After all the escapades, the film offers a bittersweet aftertaste with the knowledge that bromances, like youth or pints of ale, don’t last forever.
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