directed by Michael Winterbottom
starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon
Get your third-best friend from college, break up with your hot girlfriend, and take a road trip. Film everything, edit nothing. Learn that human relations are more important than a seven-year HBO contract. There. I’ve saved you 107 minutes of your life.
While I enjoyed this film, I would find it difficult to recommend unless you’re a big fan of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Both are competent British film and TV actors, but ones whom you’ve most likely seen supporting A Night in the Museum or Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. Coogan is between gigs and gets a nice assignment for The Observer: he’s to visit five hot molecular gastronomy joints in the Lakes District and Yorkshire. His girlfriend Emma (Claire Keelan) and he are amicably split, his son is drifting into booze and bad company, and his sort-of friend Brydon agrees to go along for the drive and a split of the fee. Off they go in a cloud of endless driving scenes, spectacular views (Ben Smithard on camera), and quaint brick eateries with heart-stopping prices. As a travelogue I rank this first rate, but as a buddy story it’s the sort of thing you could film with an iPhone duct-taped to your windshield.
Besides eating, they visit historical sites, climb ancient limestone formations, look for cell phone coverage, and have sex with hotel clerks. Well, Coogan is getting some. Brydon is impossibly happily married and in love with his infant son. The intended entertainment value of this film lies in the dual impersonations — both claim to have mastered Michael Caine and Sean Connery, and they do some funny rewrites of Henry the Fifth. While all this is mildly amusing, I kept waiting for something dramatic or heartwarming or tragic to cross the screen. You know — that stuff that makes you buy theater tickets. Both Coogan and Brydon grate just to the point that you’d put up with them, but never ride with them again. We learn little about the countryside, nothing about the food or how these top-drawer restaurants end up where they do, or exactly why Coogan and Emma (Claire Keelan) have split. Coogan has flaws, hopes, and disappointments, but nothing bigger than those of any other actor. Celebrity impressions aren’t enough to justify sitting through this road trip.
IFC Films: www.ifcfilms.com/films/the-trip