Basically, the storyline of every 60s movie, regardless of portrayed period. Libertines are cool. Pious people are not. The former have a special ability to feel that those bound by social decorum do not. Things that are base are heralded, & things that are elevated are trampled. Deviancy is no big deal. It's all harmless.
All these counter-cultural movies portray the disreputable as the pinnacle of humanity, & the reputable as worthless & stuffy objects of contempt. They're all just such cute, clever, & lovable miscreants. Wiley little rascals! How can we then question what they do? I know it was presented in such a way where the audience was supposed to find him just irresistibly endearing...he annoyed me greatly.
It is not without achievement. The direction was superb, at times. Finney is very good. Many of the performers are. The mode of story-telling is quite unique & interesting. I did enjoy the hunting scene, but the direction in that scene was a little spastic.
More bad. I'm not sure if this film is the origination of the idea that a couple acting like retards was the universal sign of falling in love. The eating scene disgusted me one several levels. And the fact that the beautiful Miss Western would still be so unquestioningly & blindly given over to Tom Jones, despite anything he did whatsoever (multiple elicit affairs) is an insult to my intelligence & her character. She just always takes him back, & we're supposed to believe her to be a great lady.
He's continually referred to as our hero. Speak for yourself. Not mine.
Lesson: if you're related to the right people, you can get the girl.