Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Trip (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

 The Trip

If you have ever wanted to see a road movie with a slant on British comedy and Romantic poetry, then "The Trip" will satisfy your craving. Instead of boozing buddies and bathroom humor, we have two mid-level British celebs: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon who travel about together, not on holiday but to gather material for an article on restaurants in and around England's Lake District. Coogan and Brydon play what is assumed to be versions of themselves. Coogan: big, shambling and grumpy, a bit like Dr. Who. Brydon: chirpy, nervous, natty and perpetually upbeat. 
The two really don't like each other. Or Rather Coogan doesn't seem to really care for Brydon as he appears to like everyone. Brydon mixes with Coogan's existentialism like absinthe and milk. Brydon is the gentle family man to Coogan's perpetual amorous merry go round that isn't always so merry. 

The two drive over endless expanses of countryside, hopping and bumbling from restaurant to restaurant, cafe to cafe. They talk over each other and over meals and always go for the scallops, no matter what else is offered. Coogan merely sits, while his table mate chatters on doing impressions, mainly Michael Caine and Al Pacino with Sean Connery thrown in. Brydon's impressions are funny because every voice sounds the same. I never thought a twenty minute debate on Michael Caine could be funny but it is. The argument goes around in circles so many times that you will both chuckle and laugh out loud. The more down Coogan becomes, the funnier it appears. 

The conversational tone and visual style of "The Trip" is reminiscent of films like "My Dinner with Andre" (1981) only more contemporary. With all of Coogan's Hollywood anxiety, he recalls the hapless Ricky Gervais in the HBO series "Extras" but the jokes are softer and less staccato.  

Coogan may not want to travel with Brydon, but he has no choice; he is a Byronic bachelor that crashed one too many parties. Despite his moderate  success, he is left to wander the marshes in the rain, calling girlfriends who are nonplussed by him. He has dreams of Ben Stiller and everyone in Movie-Land wanting him as he doesn't fit role after role. Meanwhile Brydon, warmly ensconced in bed, is having phone sex with his wife. The contrast makes for a fountain of humor that is earthy without any punch lines or one liners. 

These people are truly funny as they sit down to eat without any incidents of explosive bowels, explicit sex talk, or drunken plane trips. There are no greeting card messages here about soulmates or the value of friendship. There is hardly any music except when they drive to their destinations. The film is simply an episodic exchange between two actor acquaintances as they ramble, compete and mildly insult. They bicker plenty but never meanly.

"The Trip" is exactly that: a quiet, thoughtful, snort and giggle jaunt through the fields of Wordsworth and Coleridge. It is a sparse road movie in the truest and most entertaining sense. Brake for William Hazlitt and travel light.
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