Still courtesy of TIFF.
The Trip is Michael Winterbottom’s best film since his last collaboration with stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, 2006’s A Cock & Bull Story. Furthermore, it’s his most accomplished and confident effort to date, one that sees him maturing past his proclivity for empty stylistic panache. There’s no hollow po-mo parlour tricks in The Trip, unless anyone considers the film’s basic premise of Coogan playing “Steve Coogan” and Brydon playing “Rob Brydon” especially a la mode. Instead, Winterbottom provides his stars with respite to explore, and indulge, their remarkable talents.
The Trip has Coogan and Brydon personating the same versions of themselves they played in Cock & Bull. The film sets them on the road for a week-long restaurant tour in Northern England, an assignment that Coogan has taken for a magazine in lieu of securing any acting work he deems suitable. The stops on their circuit and intermittent car rides are pretense for Coogan and Brydon’s graceful comic interplay. Watching as they jibe each other, indulge duelling Michael Caine impressions, and break into Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” (occasioned by their passing through a “wiley, windy moor”) is unfailingly funny, and we’re lucky to be along for the ride.
Outside of this easy back-and-forth, The Trip serves doubly as penance for Coogan’s unbecoming broadsheet headlines (in one scene he valiantly resists a bump of coke) and as opportunity to try his hand at the “serious dramatic acting” he insists he’s capable of. Many of these moments flounder—their ulterior motives too evident, and considering the reported depths of Coogan’s depravity, a bit sinister—but the abundant comedic notes prove more than enough to offset these rare slips.
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