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On The Trip

Local film expert Lou Sabini reviews The Trip, currently playing at Stamford's Avon Theatre.

Having seen the trailer for THE TRIP a number of times, I was rather skeptical when I actually sat down to view the film.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised, for the most part, and I walked out of the theatre feeling like I had taken a vacation (or holiday, as the Brits would say) to Northern England. Filmed primarily in and around the Lake District and directed by Michael Winterbottom, whose films were usually shot “off the cuff” and on location, resulting in a unique quality, not found in modern films, THE TRIP has the look and feel of a documentary.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are reunited once again after appearing together in Winterbottom’s “A Cock and Bull Story” (2006). This follow-up film really is a wonderful character study of two vastly different personalities, whose chemistry proves simply delightful, so much so that I hope that they will be teamed for more excellent forays such as this in the future.

In the film, Steve (Coogan), in order to impress his girlfriend, takes an assignment as a food critic for the Observer Magazine, hoping to bring her along to Northern England and write about selected restaurants offering gourmet cuisine in the area. Unfortunately, their relationship is “on the rocks” and she decides to pass on the trip.

With nobody to accompany him, Steve decides to ask a former colleague, Rob (Brydon) to come along and together they set out on their adventure. What follows is almost a travelogue depicting the peaceful calm of the Lake District with its beautiful farmlands, stone cottages, quaint B&Bs and barren landscapes with Steve and Rob offering humorous commentary during their trek up north.

Throughout the film, there is a running gag with both men constantly doing impressions of famous personalities (i.e. Michael Caine, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, etc.) and the results are hilarious (and quite good, too). Their conversations while sampling some of the French cuisine dishes are another highlight as well, with both men preferring a typical English breakfast instead!

On the surface, many viewers will find that this is all THE TRIP has to offer with its humorous repartee between Steve and Rob and the director’s obvious love of the British countryside so lovingly photographed. However, it goes much deeper than that. The movie is actually a journey of self-discovery.

The two men’s lives are invariably different with Rob being a happily married man, whose stable life is contrasted vastly against Steve’s, whose first marriage has ended in divorce and his current relationship is on rather rocky ground as well. What’s more, his illusions of fame and fortune prove futile, making his loneliness all the more poignant. However, despite their differences in their current lifestyles, both are extremely compatible and seem to enjoy each other’s company.

Virtually plotless and very unassuming, THE TRIP does offer some wonderfully funny vignettes with these two engaging British comics, who are both so natural that it’s almost hard to determine how much was scripted and how much was improvised!

I can only say that I found the film a pleasing experience and would recommend it for anyone who wants to spend a leisurely two hours traveling through England with two newly-acquired friends.

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