From fried eggs to stuffed quail; from John Travolta’s to Coleridge’s Xanadu; from pop culture to high art, “The Trip” takes us in a journey that includes first class food, wine, conversation and a meditation on the nature of the artist as a middle age man. The film directed by Michael Winterbottom is an edited version of a six part series done for the BBC. Starring Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan as versions of themselves, the dialogue is largely improvised by the comedians.
Coogan and Brydon embark on a culinary expedition of Northern England on assignment for the UK’s Observer. Supposedly, Coogan accepted the job with the idea of doing the trip with his foodie girlfriend, but having split, he asks Brydon to join him at the last minute. Their relationship is testy and punctured by rivalry and competitive banter.
Brydon is also a successful comedian in England known for his impersonations of figures that range from Anthony Hopkins, to WoodyAllen. Here is a magnificent duel on MichaelCaine’s impersonations.
The tension in the relationship between Coogan and Brydon is underlined by the two different stands that each represents in life. Brydon is the stable, levelheaded family man. Coogan, on the contrary, is the eternal adolescent, who avoids commitment, still does drugs and fools around with younger women. Just as in real life, the dialogue between the two thespians oscillates from sheer silly to a comparison between the styles of the poets and founders of the Romantic Movement,WilliamWoodsworth and Samuel Coleridge without ever becoming pretentious. Coogan and Brydon visit their houses as part of this exploration of Nothern England and reflect on their personalities. Like Brydon, Woodsworth was more of a stable family man; like Coogan, Coleridgehad a turbulent and addictive personality.
Whether more sensible or exuberant, Brydon and Coogan are excellent travel companions and “The Trip” is a delight from beginning to end.