Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Starring Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon
IFC/MPI Home Video
Release Date: October 11, 2011
Nothing screams cinematic awesomeness like two people’s vacation.
Joking aside, that’s exactly what the team of Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, and director Michael Winterbottom have done with their latest collaboration, a docudrama entitled The Trip. Telling the story of Coogan, who, asked by The Observer to tour the UK’s best eateries, teams up with Brydon after his then-girlfriend passes on the short little vacation, the film finds our lead at his wits end when his long-time friend, Brydon, takes the vacant slot on the trip.
However slight the narrative may indeed sounds, the film that we ultimately get is both charmingly entertaining and intellectually delectable, more so than it frankly has any right to be.
As far as structure goes, this film doesn’t do much new. Simply playing as a neo-travelogue of sorts, following these two men on their trip together through the countryside, the film itself isn’t all that intriguingly inventive. Originally a TV series in the UK, The Trip feels a bit disjointed, or at least oddly put together, but then again, that’s not truly a damning flaw. It does feel like a collection of shorter vignettes pasted together, but it’s also beyond entertaining.
If a film like this had any lesser performances at its forefront, this would be almost unwatchable. However, with Coogan and Brydon involved, it’s one of the most engaging pieces of cinema you’ll see all year. Collectively, they play like any great combination of ingredients, culminating in a delicious dish. Brydon and Coogan play as polar opposites, each great on their own, but best when put together. Coogan is the truest lead here, and he’s also the true emotional core. Dealing with both his deep seeded strive for fame, and an even deeper strive for what he deems true love, Coogan is the most unsure character here, as opposed to Brydon who, equally cares about being famous, but is building a name for himself, as well as a family. And hell, the food is definitely a great third party.
Best known for his use of music and a filmography that spans almost wordless dramas (9 Songs) or pitch black neo-noir (The Killer Inside), Michael Winterbottom takes a back seat here, opting for a much more muted style than he is akin to. Winterbottom allows the characters and sequences to really steep on screen, and will occasionally find his characters even commenting on the often massively on the nose set ups. There is one sequence in particular, that is the epitome of this, in which, walking across a stone bridge, Coogan gets stuck “halfway to his destination.” It’s a really funny sequence that is perfectly set up by Winterbottom, and even more so by the two leads.
Obviously, this isn’t the most difficult of source material to transfer to DVD, but I will say that it looks and sounds great. The transfer is solid, and the soundtrack, while sparse, is equally fantastic. Again however, there isn’t much to write home about here, as visually and sonically, the film isn’t truly breaking any sort of new ground.
Shockingly stacked. Including the mainstays like a trailer and a making of, there are also some really great and entertaining deleted scenes, and even a behind the scenes, which makes this a really great release from IFC, a studio that is definitely hit or miss when it comes to supplements accompanying their DVD/Blu-ray releases.
THE SPECIAL FEATURE
Those very deleted scenes. Each of them really feel like perfect additions to the film as a whole, but honestly, they also seem right at home on the cutting room floor. The best thing to say about deleted sequences are that they give a great insight into what the director was trying to do with the film as a whole, and you see that exact idea on display here. Oh, and they are just absolutely uproarious as well.
Overall, those looking for something akin to Louis Malle’s My Dinner With Andre and its meditative musings on life, death, love and loss, will be disappointed. While The Trip has its moving bits of narrative and occasional philosophical musings, it is the occasional comedic set pieces (be it a period drama performance during a car ride or the constant impersonations) that will really keep you coming back to this film routinely. Brydon’s performance can come off as a bit grating, and if you are looking for a foodie movie, skip this. Best described as the MacGuffin to end all MacGuffins, the food here plays absolutely no part in the film, other than a beautiful way to get us from point A, to the various, beautiful points that will follow.
That all said, for those looking to check out a truly engaging and entertaining bit of Brit humor with a meditative spirit and heart to boot, this is an absolute must see. The IFC DVD is really gorgeous, and while it may not be as extensive as a release of the entire TV series, this is definitely a must-own.