U.S. Release Date: June 10, 2011
Running Time: 107 minutes
MPAA Classification: NR (Language)
Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Margo Stilley, Claire Keelan
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Producers: Andrew Eaton, Melissa Parmenter, Henry Normal, Michael Winterbottom
By STEPHEN EARNEST / December 27, 2011
At first look, The Trip may not seem like much, but once you get into it, it becomes something much more than you first expected. Now, by saying this, am I implying that a twist of fate occurs among the characters? That the plot takes a turn and becomes something different and more complex than the IMDb synopsis entails? Quite the contrary, actually.
For those of you that have read a plot synopsis on The Trip, you will know what I am talking about. For those of you that haven’t, allow me to explain.
Actor Steve Coogan (played by actor Steve Coogan) is assigned by the Observer newspaper to write an article on the cuisine of Northern England. Unfortunately, his girlfriend can’t make it, so he invites an old friend, Rob Brydon (played by Rob Brydon) , to come along with him. From here, the plot does not deviate. Coogan and Brydon eat and converse with one another. That’s it. All of this is filmed in documentary fashion, so we get a sense that we’re just watching the lives of two actors. There are no hidden gimmicks or fight sequences or sex scenes. We watch two men go from place to place eating food. Simple enough.
This sounds boring, right? Well, it’s not. It’s actually quite entertaining, mainly because the two actors are such talented impressionists. Brydon (most certainly the funnier of the two) is constantly switching from voice to voice, mimicking a wide variety of famous actors, almost never using his own. In one hilarious instance, he and Coogan argue over who has the better Michael Caine impression, debating over whether or not his voice cracks when he gets emotional.
But while there moments of utter hilarity, there is a fair amount of emotional depth. We learn more about the Coogan character; about the underlying jealousy that exists between him and Brydon. We get a sense that there is some sort of rivalry going on between the two, because even though Coogan believes that he is the better and more well-known actor, Brydon is the one that gets stopped on the streets and asked for autographs.
There are various moments of truth here, such as when Coogan and Brydon decide to explore nature. Coogan spends the entire time explaining the cultural and historical significance of certain parts of the park, while Brydon is more interested in just observing it for himself. He doesn’t need to be told about something to enjoy it. Later on, Coogan is approached by a man who does the exact same thing to him (explaining how the rocks formed that way…) and he realizes how much of a pain it really is.
Ultimately, when we think that all of this character development is going somewhere, The Trip ends, without really resolving anything between Coogan and Brydon. Was it just a way to showcase the mimicking abilities of the two lead actors? That question plagues my mind so, but I think that the half-ambiguous ending makes it seem all the more like a documentary. It’s not a Hollywood movie with a happy ending; it’s real life.
In terms of direction, Michael Winterbottom doesn’t really have that hard of a job. Most of what appears on the screen is routinely executed. There are shots of the English landscape, shots of Coogan and Brydon talking in the car, shots of them eating and talking together, shots of the food being prepared, and shots of Coogan himself exploring the countryside, searching for cell phone reception. But to be fair, when has a documentary ever been that complex of a thing?