[Last Films I Saw] The Trip (2010) & The Trip to Italy (2014)

The Trip, The Trip to Italy poster

Title: The Trip
Year: 2010
Country: UK
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Music: Michael Nyman
Cinematography: Ben Smithard
Cast:
Steve Coogan
Rob Brydon
Marta Barrio
Margo Stilley
Claire Keelan
Ben Stiller
Rebecca Johnson
Kerry Shale
Timothy Leach
Rating: 5.1/10

The Trip 2010

Title: The Trip to Italy
Year: 2014
Country: UK
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Writer: Michael Winterbottom
Cinematography: James Clarke
Cast:
Steve Coogan
Rob Brydon
Rosie Fellner
Claire Keelan
Marta Barrio
Timothy Leach
Ronni Ancona
Rating: 5.7/10

The Trip to Italy 2014

A double-bill of the film versions of BBC series THE TRIP, the first season is in 2010, Steve Coogan is asked by The Observer to tour Northern England’s finest restaurants, but his then girlfriend Mischa (Stilley) back-pedals in the last minute, so Coogan asks his friend, the comedian and impressionist Rob Brydon to come with him instead. The second season is released this year, and the pair embarks on a trip to Italy for the another restaurant review tour. Both seasons are separately compressed into two film features by its director Michael Winterbottom.

Treading on the similar (and successful) territory of Richard Linklater’s BEFORE trilogy, the films almost inclusively rely on the interminable chattering between Coogan and Brydon, but since the casual conversation between two heterosexual middle-aged male is a bore, so to a lesser degree, the films opt for their celebrity impressions (mainly from Brydon, the personae are running from local staples to international names like Michael Caine, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, various 007, to the latest Batman stars Tom Hardy and Christine Bale) to entertain viewers, which is a successful gag at first, but when it has been stretched into two films, sooner or later the laughter would freeze into a state of insensibility (one exception is Rob’s man-in-the-box mimicry in Pompeii. where he plays two roles imitating a conversation with the preserved dead body).

One might predictably anticipate the journeys will come across as food pornography, which is true, they are munificently treated with the exquisite gastronomic delights, but stingily, the films never even try to dig into their reactions of the delicacies they are contently devouring, all tends to give the inkling that they are less gourmands than gourmets (or maybe it is all in their commissioned reviews, cannot be divulged for the sake of the copyright). Instead, every meal time conversation downgrades into a stale performance of impressions, which is mind-numbingly frustrating if one is not really into its cultural soul.

As an improvised faux-documentary, there is a resilient fraternity between Coogan and Brydon, which also undergoes a certain transition through the journey, in THE TRIP, one can detect Coogan’s condescending pose towards Brydon, not overt, but considering their different career-orbit, Coogan is considerably more successful than Brydon in the showbiz. At first, Coogan constantly dismisses and refuses to cooperate with Brydon’s impressions as he said “I don’t do impressions!”. But during the detour where they shortly visit Coogan’s parents, they convivially confirms that impression is also what their son’s trump card. Moreover, Winterbottom instils this judgemental discrepancy in their final destinations, Coogan wistfully returns to his empty modern flat with French windows while Brydon is happily back to his homely companion of his wife and new-born baby girl.

Whereas in THE TRIP TO ITALY, their rapport is more or less based on an equal ground, notably this time, the invitation is sent by Brydon, a brief encounter with no-string-attach benefit finally occurs to Brydon this time, and he also gets an important role in a Michael Mann film during this trip (while in the prequel, Steve is offering a leading role in an American series but he is hesitate to take it). But basically the two films are in the exact same mode, driving, impersonating, dining, impersonating, occasionally flirting-leads-to-sex-and-followed-by-morning-after-remorse, meeting friends, impersonating, sightseeing, etc. etc. Literature reference is also the accompanying dessert on the way, Samuel Coleridge in the Northern Britain, Byron and Mary Shelley in Italy.

The films are pleasant to watch in most of its time, a fly-on-the-wall presentation of splendid scenery which often interrupted by casual jabbering and food is served with fleeting kitchen scenes, also sporadically Winterbottom brings some odd dream sequences, one of which has a Ben Stiller cameo.

Due to the love of Italy (both the cuisine and the view can undeniably pale Northern Britain in comparison) and Alanis Morissette, I give an edge to the sequel eventually. But after all, between “THE” and “TRIP” in their titles, there is an invisible “EGO” hidden there, which will betray itself as quickly as possible in its hedonistic undercurrent.

Oscar 2014 - The Trip to Italy

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