"You Brits really don't have a sense of humor do you?"
- Henry Denton, Gosford Park
This Week's Essays
Related Review: Gosford Park
My big takeaway from back-to-back viewings of Bruce Robinson’s Withnail & I and Robert Altman’s Gosford Park is thus: no matter their class or station, the English are not very good at relaxing.
The Bromantic Dramedy
There was Sideways and then The Trip, but first there was Withnail & I. Call it the bromantic dramedy: it follows a pair of urbane males as they test the limits of their friendship against an unfamiliar backdrop. It’s the platonic equivalent of a rom-com, with a road trip thrown in for good measure, and as a micro-genre it’s complete with its own character archetypes, settings, and rituals.
Filmography: Bruce Robinson
Robinson’s films vary in genre from comedy to thriller to historical epic, but they feature some commonalities. For the most part, his films feature a respect and fascination with chaos and anarchic behavior. His characters are often outsiders struggling to deal with the insane world around them through a combination of righteous anger, cynicism, drugs, and alcohol.
Comedy and the Kitchen Sink
Trying to classify Withnail & I as a specific kind of comedy is nearly impossible, defying the idea that its “Britishness” fits it in with a particular genre. Throughout the film, I could register it as funny, but could never exactly pinpoint how or why.
Watching this film was like holding a mirror up to myself from my mid-twenties. Somehow these two pompous, selfish, rude, disgusting, jackasses not only aroused my sympathy, but reminded me of the self I had been. True, I didn’t spend my twenties as an unemployed alcoholic with dreams of the theater, but I, nevertheless inhabited the same existential landscape.