Several nights ago I had the pleasure of watching The Trip, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, directed by Michael Winterbottom. It is a mockumentary style and Coogan is the main character. The Observer has asked Coogan to take a trip in the North England countryside, eating at various restaurants and resting at inns along the way so he could write about them. Coogan had planned to make the journey with his girlfriend, but at the last minute she decamped for work in the U.S., giving him no other alternative but to take his best friend Rob instead.
While light on plot, the film more than makes up for it in the charisma and hilarity of the starring pair. They both play themselves as actos, prone to impressions, which include Michael Caine, Sir Ian McKellen, and Viking warriors. They elaborate on each other’s work and make a great deal out of just riding in the car together. Coogan’s adventures with women along the way are also made sport of. Their dry, sharp humor is right on at describing the food they eat and each other’s shortcomings. There were so many great one liners and also so many long riffs off of simple things someone said.
The two of them have different ambitions as actors. Coogan sees himself as a potential A-list fixture and dreams of playing big parts in big movies with big directors. Brydon, while by no means forsaking the dream of acting success, is well-adjusted and comfortable living with his wife and baby, doing enough to pay the bills. Coogan resents his friend’s happiness. He considers Brydon less talented and less ambitious, content to live a forgotten, moderately-successful-but-not-transcendent life with his family. In his mind, making any compromises for the sake of such peaceful living is akin to selling out. He believes his own restless course is the true one for a real artist. But the movie’s revelations cast doubt on this conviction (which is held by many aspiring to artistic success). We see Coogan bereft of any real human connection other than his friendship with Brydon (which is a very good one), but he cannot live with its comforts every day. He is distant from his son and lives alone.
The movie is also beautiful to watch. The gray English moors are shown in full as the Range Rover snakes its way down the thin roads. There are some great old churches too. It all reminds you of how old the country is and instills a deep sense of the permanence that abides there. There are also some wonderful, very joyful and lonely shots of London at the end.
Long story short, despite it’s poignant adult themes, it’s lighthearted for the most part and laugh out funny almost all the time. Well worth a watch.
Photo: © 2010 – IFC Films