Screened as part of NZIFF 2011
There is comic alchemy in Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s reprisal of their roles – versions of themselves – from Michael Winterbottom’s 2005 Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. In The Trip, the two 40-something actors are on a tour of northern English restaurants, which Coogan is to review for a Sunday newspaper. Having been snubbed by his American girlfriend, Coogan has grudgingly enlisted his old friend Brydon to occupy the Range Rover passenger seat, and so begins a very funny, and surprisingly moving, road movie – something like a stripped-back Sideways with a British accent.
At turns witty, brilliant, venal, vain and lascivious, Coogan is bedevilled by a self-doubt that impels him to chip imperiously away at Brydon, whose improvisational wit is a consistent match for his more famous co-star. There is one hell of a supporting cast: Woody Allen, Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino, Michael Caine, Dustin Hoffman, Sean Connery, Hugh Grant, and even Richard Burton make appearances – appearances, that is, as conjured by Coogan and Brydon in repeated ping-pong sessions of impressions. It should be excruciating, and sometimes it is. But it is fall-over, fits-of-laughter funny.
Then there’s the photography. Winterbottom’s staccato montages of busy kitchens at work are oddly compelling, as, by contrast, are the lingering shots of lustrous northern landscape. The Trip mulls ideas of friendship and family, ageing, loyalty and fame, but what sets it apart are the performances by Coogan and Brydon, which warrant a place in the pantheon of great British comedy double-acts. — TM