One of the funniest and most original British films in the second half of the 20th century, Withnail & I is a genuine cult classic. Set at the gray, scabby end of the 1960s, the film is a marvelous character study of two "resting" (read: unemployed and possibly unemployable) actors whose bitterness and frustrated hopes mirror the era's soiled, run-down glory. Few films have explored bitterness and filth with more acidic wit, and few actors have given more exuberantly poisonous performances than Richard E. Grant as the raging, cadaverous Withnail. Whether vomiting lighter fluid onto the shoes of his flatmate (the titular "I," or Marwood, portrayed as a seeming innocent by Paul McGann) or trying to kill a chicken for dinner, he is pitiful, charismatic, and endlessly watchable all at once. Also excellent is Richard Griffiths as Withnail's gay uncle Monty, a huge man with a bacchanalian lust for life, not to mention for the unsuspecting Marwood. Withnail and Monty are two of the film's more unapologetically profane aspects, while Grant provides its thorny, tragic soul.
by Rebecca Flint Marx review