director Bruce Robinson
A cult film is a film that most people don’t get but that some people get entirely. By the very nature of the fact that the film doesn’t appeal to the general population of the world, but has an impassioned group of adherents, it tends to go on to develop an impassioned fixation for some, who appreciate it and winnow out its depths and meanings and joys in ways that outsiders would simply never understand. And they love it all the more that that is so.
Withnail and I is a cult film that I don’t entirely 100% get. That is not to say that I don’t appreciate it or see its merits and interest, but rather that it’s a cult film that doesn’t speak directly to me. I first saw it while living in England in the 1990’s and heard about it in the impassioned rants of young men who thought it the most hilarious movie ever made — which is typical of its acolytes.
Produced by George Harrison and written and directed by Bruce Robinson, based loosely on his experiences as a young actor in London in 1969. It’s the drunken/drugged wildness of Withnail (the tremendous Richard E. Grant) and the I (Paul McGann), who trundle off to Withanil’s wealthy Uncle Monty (the amazing Richard Griffiths)’s house in the country where they are strange, stranded, and miserable.
The actors are great. And it’s funny and specific. And I like it.
But I don’t get it the way that true hardcore fans do. I wonder how much of that core group of fans is purely English. The film has its adherents here in the States, too, but I kind of think that this film is so very English that it speaks in specificity to the English more so than the average American (or other non-English viewer). I raise this as a question.
I like the film. It’s good. But as a fan of many a cult film, I can say that I fall outside of this film’s cult, good or bad. You can’t love ‘em all.