I love this thread!
One of my favorite themes in W&I is the way location (see?
) affects the characters. This film could well be titled "Country Mouse, City Mouse".
In London, Withnail is king. (More like a dick-tater
, really...) He incites Marwood to panic by the mere suggestion of doing the washing up. He storms into the loo while Marwood is in the tub, and instead of apologizing for the intrusion, he vents spleen on Marwood and slams out. He accuses Marwood of tampering with the thermostat, as if Marwood does not have equal rights to be "at the controls" in the flat.
In London, Marwood placates, he tolerates, he vibrates with anxiety. He tries to protect Withnail from doing his own chores, even though the place is a wreck. He's an enabler. At Uncle Monty's house, Withnail relaxes - blooms, even - while Marwood is so uptight that he glances nervously at Withnail every time he's invited to join the conversation. In the city, Marwood only dares write his ideas into his journal, which we are privy to via voiceover. "What we need is harmony... fresh air... stuff like that.
When they step out into Regents Park, we see the first glimmer of shift in the boys' personalities. Withnail is no longer threatening - he becomes whiny and needy. Marwood is no longer terrified by Withnail's discomfort - he's almost bored by it, brushing it off with trite cliched responses. Most telling, though, is that Marwood finally has the balls to put forth an idea. Out loud. "Get out of it for a while. Get into the countryside... rejuvenate.
" Even though Withnail ridicules the idea immediately, Marwood doesn't let go of it. The change has begun.
Once they arrive at Crow Crag, the pendulum swings violently. Withnail is begging Marwood for headache relief, and Marwood is assessing what needs doing and assigning tasks. He goes out on his own to meet the neighbors and ask for assistance. He bangs on the ceiling and orders Withnail to pull his head out and get things done. He even throws a few half-decent temper tantrums when Withnail disregards his wishes. This is certainly not the mousy Marwood we knew in London!
During the last scene at Crow Crag we see Marwood get a huge boost up the confidence ladder when he receives an encouraging telegram from his agent. He takes Withnail to task for his insensitivity to Uncle Monty and shifts Withnail towards immediate departure for London.
After all that momentum, all it takes is the boys getting back in the Jag and heading for home for Withnail to reclaim his reign of chaos. Before we know it, Withnail is literally at the wheel - how's that for symbolism! Sure enough, they've barely thrown their suitcases down in the flat before Marwood is getting THE FEAR again. Withnail, on the other hand, is expanding once more into his comfort zone, getting high with friends, howling with laughter, hitting Uncle Monty's filched wine supply. But to no avail - things have changed. You can never go home again. He just doesn't know it yet.