Following Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on a week-long drive through the sights, sounds, and tastes of the northern English countryside, The Trip is equal parts tour documentary, buddy movie, and road trip flick. But more than anything, and in spite of its many laughs, it is a poignant meditation on aging.
Ostensibly playing themselves, Coogan and Brydon are a juxtaposition of insecure and self-possessed, of serious artist and happy-go-lucky entertainer. Their differences are sussed out in conversations brimming over with dry British wit in the form of culinary critique, poetry, and hilarious celebrity impressions.
Amidst the abundant humor, there is varying tension between the two throughout, but director Michael Winterbottom avoids manufacturing friction for friction’s sake, keeping the central conflict understated and letting Coogan work through his personal and professional dissatisfaction with a refreshing lack of histrionics.
In particular, two things really impressd me about The Trip:
First, as an American, some of the more Anglo-centric cultural references were lost on me but somehow managed to keep me engaged and did nothing to diminish my enjoyment of the film. Coogan and Brydon’s conversational chemistry as well as their individual oratorial bravura was such that it didn’t even matter what they were saying; I just liked hearing them talk.
Second, the insular portrayal of two thespians whose theatrical impulses are incessantly indulged was not off-putting. For me, performers being performers in a non-performance setting is usually a recipe for disaster (see The Anniversary Party), but Coogan and Brydon’s aforementioned skills made listening to their endless riffing a real joy.
Don’t miss this one.