Michael Winterbottom’s latest feature, “The Trip” which stars Steve Coogan (pictured, right) and Rob Brydon (a BAFTA-nominated actor who’s very popular in Great Britain), makes for brilliant improvisational comedy. The film is set largely in restaurants throughout northern England and is a hilarious take on the conversations between two comedians as they attempt to outdo each other in celebrity impressions, a key element that should make the film a hit with American audiences.
Playing a narcissistic version of himself, Coogan, who has recently split from his girlfriend, sets out on assignment with his friend (Brydon). On the road, Coogan struggles to chase success with his London and U.S. agents, his ex-girlfriend and his child from a previous marriage in between bedding innkeepers, improvisational sketches with Brydon and trying to find a signal in the desolate countryside. Brydon, on the other hand, is a devoted husband and father, who spends his evenings talking dirty to his wife on the phone.
The chemistry between Coogan and Brydon is undeniable. They improvise well together as they did in Winterbottom’s last feature with the duo – “Tristram Shandy, A Cock and Bull Story.” Coogan is typically hit or miss with American audiences–his comedy is an acquired taste–and judging by the lack of success of “Hamlet 2” might be a hard sell across the pond. Luckily, “The Trip” has already enjoyed success in the U.K. as it originally started off as a series for BBC. The theatrical version at Tribeca this year is an edited version of that series.
Amid the many moments of hilarity between the duo at the table are interwoven bits of back of the house preparation of the food and beautifully presented dishes, which, incidental as they are, definitely add a sliver of beauty to “The Trip.” The film ends on a rather sad note as the two depart from their journey, back to their own lives. Coogan’s is rather pathetic and lonely and not typically how comedies end. It is perhaps a less philosophical take on “My Dinner with Andre,” updated for an audience content with just a good meal and a few laughs.