British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon battle on a road trip through northern England in The Trip. Michael Winterbottom’s comedy is a lighthearted adventure that meditates on family, career and what really matters.
Friendship put to the test
The Trip is irresistible as divorcee Steve convinces family man Rob to join him for a week-long road trip to visit England’s best restaurants in Yorkshire and The Lake District. Steve is writing celebrity restaurant reviews for The Observer, who will pick up their tab.
Coogan and Brydon (who also matched wits in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story) share great chemistry. Before we know it we’re hooked on where they’re going, what they’re eating and which actor they’ll send up next.
This film engages your imagination despite a bare-bones plot (Steve has a decision to make).
Conversation, culture and laughs
Laugh-out-loud adventurous and easygoing, this is a thoughtful comedy more sophisticated than the average mockumentary.
It’s all improv, originally shot as a BBC mini-series. Winterbottom and editors Mags Arnold and Paul Monaghan earn high praise for adapting it to the big screen.
Real life rivalry
Fame is fickle for the friendly rivals, who compete in real life. Coogan (24 Hour Party People) has pursued Hollywood roles (Around the World in 80 Days) with less acclaim.
Brydon enjoys great popularity in England. He’s renowned for one routine seen here: “Help me! I’m a small man stuck in a box!”
Coogan fusses and fumes. He’s pulled in several directions as he phones his elusive girlfriend Mischa (Margo Stilley), his American agent (Kerry Shale) and his wayward son. Hurting, he mimics Brydon’s “small man” in the mirror.
Meanwhile Brydon coasts along, confident. The banter turns philosophical as they sing and play “what if.” Coogan drives. The Trip is fanciful and endearing when compared with darker, moodier Sideways (2004).
Scrumptious and beautifully designed cuisine becomes the focal point as the insults roll. We glimpse behind-the-scenes food preparation in some of England’s best restaurants. Scallops, duck, pigeon and micro greens are served. The two visit Hipping Hall, L’Enclume and The Yorke Arms.
At their most side-splitting, Coogan and Brydon compete with dueling impressions of famous Brits like Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins and Richard Burton. Woody Allen, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino are mimicked.
Observing Best Actor Colin Firth’s success, the two ponder just how far they would go to win an Oscar.
Home of a literary great
The funnymen meet literary tradition when they visit Dove Cottage where William Wordsworth lived. Touring Samuel Coleridge’s home nearby, they recall his opium addiction. “I’d rather have moments of genius than a lifetime of mediocrity,” Brydon declares.
Beautiful Northern England mirrors the travelers’ psyches with rolling hills, meadows and ancient limestone outcroppings. Man’s eternal quest ranges from primordial to modern days.
There’s a quiet, reflective moment when Coogan arrives at a limestone bluff. He savors a breathtaking landscape and its natural sounds.
That moment is like a deep breath. That intimacy between man and nature is rarely captured on film.
Chasing the ladies
Coogan seduces several ladies during their overnight stays. He calls himself a British Don Quixote. “Women are my windmills. I tilt at them,” he quips.
At an old cemetery Coogan delivers Brydon’s eulogy, but quickly leaves before his friend can reciprocate. On their way home, they visit Coogan’s parents.
Taking life lightly
Life can be funny, sad, frustrating and sometimes transcendent. The Trip is an allegory that honors England and creative artists everywhere.
Coogan and Brydon take life – and themselves – lightly. (4.5 out of 5 stars)
The Trip 2010 / NR / 1 hour, 51 min
Cast Overview: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Claire Keelan, Margo Stilley, Rebecca Johnson, Dolya Gavanski, Kerry Shale
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Genre: Mockumentary, Comedy