When Steve Coogan is commissioned by the food supplement of a Sunday newspaper to review half a dozen restaurants, he decides on a trip mixing work with pleasure around the north, with his food-loving American girlfriend, Mischa (Margo Stilley). But when she decides to leave him and return to the States, Steve is faced with a week of meals for one, not quite the trip he had in mind. Reluctantly, he calls and invites Rob Brydon along. Never one to turn down a free lunch, Rob agrees. Over the course of several meals at restaurants, and driving in and around the Lake District, Lancashire and the Yorkshire Dales, they share jokes and impressions of famous actors.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The Trip is an attempt at using the everyday as the dynamic device to underpin a comedic film about two friends, characters who may or may not resemble Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden in real life. Well, they do resemble them, but perhaps they are not quite them; they seem flawed versions, made narcissistic for effect. But the film is misleadingly marketed as a series of conversations about 'the big questions of life'. It would have been a better film if that were so.
Starting on Monday, Coogan and Bryden share meals (supposedly to review the restaurants but we never see or hear anything about the reviews) and what passes for conversation. By Tuesday night, we have been served repetitious impressions of Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Al Pacino and Hugh Grant. By Friday we will have heard impressions of Woody Allen and David Frost as well. Amusing, perhaps, but hardly riveting stuff.
We are also privy to mundane conversations between their friends and/or family, including Mischa (Margo Stilley) who is some sort of writer who was to have accompanied Coogan on the trip but flew back to Los Angeles to try and massage her magazine writing career.
When they're not insufferable, they're boring, and the idyllic English countryside is dull. Suddenly we're inside Coogan's dream (around the reserved pool of the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood) as Ben Stiller is telling him how every brother team of filmmakers wants to work with him in movies. This short detour underscores how dull the rest of the film is.
Even the occasional attempts at culinary interest end up rather bland; the descriptions of the meals are neither as interesting as a Nigella Lawson spiel nor as funny as a good Coogan comedy turn. The attempts at filming kitchen-at-work are horribly mangled.
We join them in their rented 4WD as they drive around northern England, all the time exchanging show-off chit chat, throwing in a Billy Connolly impression. But not even my genuine appreciation of Coogan and Bryden's talents can save the film for me.
The one remarkable and notable aspect of The Trip is how well Michael Winterbottom and team use the camera/s, enabling the editor to make the coverage of the mealtime conversations (and the rest of the trip) visually seamless, spontaneous and complete. It's just not enough to make the film work.
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TRIP, THE (M)
CAST: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Margo Stilley, Claire Keelan, Paul Popplewell, Dolya Gavanski, Rebecca Johnson
PRODUCER: Andrew Eaton, Melissa Parmenter
DIRECTOR: Michael Winterbottom
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben Smithard
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 30, 2011