In Withnail and I, two English chums go “on holiday by mistake” and seek refuge from their horrid lives in a bottle of whatever is nearby. The movie is loaded with writing that is memorized and used by the film’s fans in their daily lives as often as possible.
How can anyone resist lines like, “We want the finest wines available to humanity. We want them here, and we want them now!” And, of course, “There must and shall be aspirin!”
“Withnail and I” centers on two actors who can’t get a role if the rent depends upon it – and it does – who take a bit of R & R at uncle Monty’s English country shack for the weekend. This film features plenty to drink: there’s wine, there’s sherry, there’s more wine, there’s a pint of something and there’s lighter fluid. Oh, there’s also an enterprising drug supplier and an eel poacher at the pub. Now you’re hooked, right?
Richard E. Grant’s performance in the role of Withnail is a masterpiece, particularly since he had to learn how to act drunk. He Withnailed it. Paul McGann as “I” plays the foil to Withnail’s drunken bluster.
The opening sax version of “Whiter Shade of Pale” by King Curtis signals good things from this movie. The inclusion of recordings by Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles indicate some deep pockets on the production side. George Harrison had some fairly deep pockets and an inside track on getting a Beatles song licensed. This is George’s movie, and he made sure it sounded like it.
Hard times hit early on when the guys are caught without anything decent to drink, so a can of lighter fluid becomes a topic for quick debate. And if you are drinking lighter fluid because even the bum wine has run out, don’t chase it with anti-freeze. “You bloody fool, you should never mix your drinks!”
When the pair run out of wine in the bucolic English countryside, uncle Monty comes to the rescue with a case of the good stuff. As Withnail says about Monty, “He keeps a sensational cellar!” A little Chateau Margaux gets the boys into the realm of real drinking. That wine was also featured in “Intolerable Cruelty.” I don’t, however, recall George Clooney knocking back a swig of lighter fluid. Or anti-freeze. And you shouldn’t, either.
Chateau Margaux 1953 is the pick here – since the wine is used in the movie. If you are uncorking a bottle for a viewing party, DM me on Twitter. It’s the only way I’ll ever get any. On second thought, skip it. That last blast of lighter fluid ruined my palate. Recent vintages of Chateau Margaux start at over a hundred dollars a bottle, and go up to the stratosphere for the more desirable years. Expect to pay in the thousands for the best of this grand cru wine.
For derelicts on a budget:
Wild Irish Rose gets some serious attention from aficionados of cheap wine aimed at people who drink to get drunk. Alcohol at 18% certainly gets you a headstart on the party, for less than a fiver. The White Label is said to have a nose of rubbing alcohol, and a palate that’s even meaner. Better than lighter fluid, though. Sort of.
Sure, Gallo brought us Night Train and Thunderbird at higher alcohol levels, but there’s a warm spot in any drunk’s heart for their Ripple brand. Of course, that might be due to a peptic ulcer. Hey, it was Fred Sanford’s wine of choice.
It should be noted somewhere in here that Ronsonol Lighter Fluid, after all the jokes are done, is not intended for internal consumption. It is intended for internal combustion. Those great videos in which an idiot blows up his barbecue grill? That’s Ronsonol.
And after the ’53 Margaux is done, “I have some extremely distressing news. We’ve just run of wine.”