Director: Michael Winterbottom
Duration: 107 min
Starring: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon
Though both films are suffused with the clever, punchy humour, that comes as naturally to both men as breathing, it also examines the psychology behind such intense wit.
If you’re a fan of the comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, you will enjoy The Trip (2010) and its sequel The Trip to Italy (2014), both on Netflix now.
Directed by the multi-faceted Michael Winterbottom (a friend to both men), the plot to the two films is relatively simple: Coogan and Brydon play slightly fictionalised versions of themselves, as they embark upon a gastronomic tour of Northern England in the first film and the Italian coastline in the second.
This slightly altered reality which the two characters inhabit for the duration of the films is an interesting method by which to explore the relationship between the two men, and their own sense of identity as ageing comedic actors; competing with one another, as they alternately wrestle with uncertainties about each other, themselves and their careers.
In The Trip, Coogan is the neurotic one, contrasted to great comedic effect with a jocular, self-assured Brydon who constantly aggravates Coogan with his puerile sense of humour.
In the first film, Coogan is in a shaky phase of his life; he is in an unstable relationship with a much younger woman, prompting a lot of anxious behaviour on his part; and he is also trying to move his career in a more serious direction, plagued as he is with deep fears of artistic inconsequence.
It doesn’t take much for Brydon to wind him up, which he does – relentlessly.
In the Trip to Italy, however, Coogan seems much less fragile, and it is Brydon who appears to be undergoing a difficult time, displayed in strained scenes with his emotionally distant girlfriend.
Though he is still his antagonistic self, the film occasionally dips into private moments where he is upset and uncertain.
The Trip series is complex like that, because, though, both films are suffused with the clever, punchy humour, that comes as naturally to both men as breathing, it also examines the psychology behind such intense wit, the brooding, hyper-competitive nature of it, and how it is often used as a shield to defend against inner insecurities.
There are wonderfully tense scenes between the two men as they duel each other with sharp comedy and abrasive banter.
The beautiful food, wine and scenery in both films are an elegant side dish to this fascinating character study, but it is the whip-smart dialogue, which is the hearty main.
Also see: Four Films about Food on Netflix