YMMV / Withnail & I

  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Is Withnail a drunken, vicious boor willing to throw his only friend under the bus or a conflicted, depressed actor with genuine talent who was abandoned by his family and developed a substance abuse problem? Is Marwood a sympathetic young working-class man trying to make it in a predominantly upper-class business or a racist homophobe? Is Monty a tragic figure suffering due to his closetedness or a lecherous attempted rapist?
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Withnail is shown drinking lighter fluid, to Marwood's dismay. The real-life person he was based on died of throat cancer (nearly ten years after the movie came out), which the scriptwriter, who based Marwood on himself, blamed on the time he actually did drink lighter fluid.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Withnail was originally to be depicted committing suicide at the end. Vivian MacKerrell, on whom he was based, died at only 50, due to throat cancer most likely caused by self-destructive behavior of some sort.
  • Ho Yay:
    • Made canon by Withnail getting "carried away" when he told Monty that Marwood was a "toilet trader" who was in love with him.
    • See also: Marwood's constant violation of Withnail's personal space, the tendency for the two of them to call one another "luvvie", although that's probably down to the out-of-worker stereotype in England (which is queer coded to some extent) and Withnail's insistence, in the interest of their "safety", that they share a bed.
    • Incidentally, Danny remarks that Marwood is "looking very beautiful" when he sees him emerging half-dressed from the bathroom.
    • There's a shot after Marwood first refuses to let Withnail sleep in the same bed as him where the camera lingers a little on Withnail's face, almost entirely obscured by darkness, which suggests a sort of dejection.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: This isn't the last time Paul McGann would play a character whose name is never revealed.
    • And Richard E. Grant also played the Doctor in the spoof sketch "Curse of the Fatal Death," plus the villain the Great Intelligence in the show itself, and as the alternative non-canon Ninth Doctor (often referred to as the Nth Doctor,—no, not that one, in the Scream of the Shalka webcast, a version of the Doctor who seems to owe something to Withnail. For example, he's a more abrasive, aloof regeneration of the Doctor after the last's Romance-era poeticism—almost the World War 2 to his World War 1. He's got a Badass Longcoat, he drinks a good sight more than any incarnation of the Doctor since the 3rd, he's constantly name-dropping and is a bit whiny. The clincher is him complaining about the jukebox in the pub, echoing the tearooms scene in the film.
    • Richard Griffiths went on to play Vernon Dursley in the Harry Potter films, and the beginning of Prisoner of Azkaban has him repeatedly running into Harry's room trying to catch him doing magic.
    • Ralph Brown, who played Danny, one of whose bizarre non sequiturs is on how all bald men have lost contact with aliens and are uptight, now has very little hair.
  • Periphery Demographic: Both Paul McGann and Richard E. Grant have played the Doctor — the Eighth and alternative Ninth, respectively. (Richard E. Grant also appeared as the Doctor in a rather infamous spoof and as Doctor Simeon/The Great Intelligence in "The Snowmen" as well.) By sheer coincidence, these two regenerations of the Doctor were the first ones to be portrayed as overtly bisexual. Needless to say, the Doctor Who slash fandom is all over Withnail & I.
  • Vindicated by History: Screwed by the Network and ignored in the cinema, Robinson said "Thank Christ for VHS and late-night TV" for making the film a cult classic.
  • The Woobie:
    • Marwood for most of the film. His first scene, more or less, is him having a panic attack, Withnail is sick on his boots, he gets threatened by a large Ulsterman, inducing another panic attack, gets creeped on by Monty and then has to drive all the way up to the Lake District with a drunken, belligerent Withnail next to him. And that's all just in the first half an hour or so of the film.
    • Jerk Ass Woobie: Withnail towards the end, especially with his heartbreaking, awesomely spoken "What piece of work is a man" speech, with only the wolves to see it. Overall, there's a sense that the character has wasted his potential, possibly due to personal problems (he mentions his family hate him being on stage), and is externalising his own bitterness by making things miserable for everyone else. Monty as well, who tries to rape Marwood and makes him very uncomfortable beforehand, but is so deeply lonely and tragic that even Marwood feels sorry for him. He also gets some of the few poetic lines outside of Marwood's inner narration, and his speculation on beauty and decay is quite melancholy, as is his plea for Marwood, who he believes to be gay, not to waste his youth trying to deny himself as he "almost did". The Sexual Offenses Act had only been passed in the U.K two years before 1969: to some extent, Monty is around to see a new generation take advantage of freedoms he never had.