Director: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon
The Trip to Spain (2017) follows on from the excellent The Trip to Italy (still available on Netflix US, see the review below) and the original The Trip (no longer available on Netflix US).
Directed by the multi-faceted Michael Winterbottom (a friend to both men), the plot to the Trip films is relatively simple: Coogan and Brydon play slightly fictionalised versions of themselves, as they embark upon gastronomic tours of England, Italy and Spain. 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, alternately wrestling with uncertainties about themselves and their careers.
In The Trip, 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 wife.
Though he is still his antagonistic self, the film occasionally dips into private moments where he is upset and uncertain.
In The Trip to Spain Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play themselves again, two middle-aged comedians on a gastronomic tour, journeying across Spain this time, competing endlessly and obsessively with each other over who is funnier. Steve Coogan agonises once again over his career success and Rob Brydon takes every opportunity to prod his anxiety. There is a slightly more philosophical tone to this film than the previous instalments in England and Italy, as the two men discuss history and politics a lot more, with many references to current events and more of a direct contrast between Coogan’s airy liberalism and Brydon’s slightly cynical conservatism.
The Trip series is complex like that, because, though, all the films are suffused with the clever, punchy humour, that comes so naturally to both men, 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 the 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