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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Guest Review- The Trip


Guest Review- The Trip

So one of my best friends, Ries Murphy decided to give writing a movie review a shot. He's an excellent writer, but as he has no blog or anything for me to plug for him, you'll have to just take my word for it (and this review). He's a great guy and I want to thank him for writing this as well as a couple of others he's written that I'll be posting over the next few weeks. Enjoy.

I spent a long while wanting to watch Michael Winterbottom’s British road trip film The Trip, more or less thinking about it ever since I saw the first trailers for it over a year ago. There was a distinct sense of British humor crackling around the trailers, teasing what promised to be an intelligent film about to actors on a road savoring various foods in the Northern hills of England. That is more or less what this film was - though to accept at such face value would be a gross error.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are truly magnificent in this film, and that’s not a term I use often. Their chemistry is spot on, true skill shining through whether via their subtle rivalry or tender loyalty. I was surprised to realize that The Trip is not a documentary, because it feels like one. It feels as real as a documentary and yet even as I watched it I knew it wasn’t, because in some ways the film is even more honest about life than a lot of documentaries are.

The entirety of the film is shot on location in England, and is shown in such a way that paints the countryside as at once beautiful and indifferent. It looks cold and is cold, and the modest charm of English bed & breakfasts is all over the screen. The meals themselves look delicious - so much so, in fact, that I felt compelled to order food about twenty minutes into the film. I think watching The Trip under the slight effect of sangria only added to the experience - this is a film about men eating food, you should have food with you, too. But watchers beware - like most comedies, The Trip has an undertone that will upset you if you watch it too closely.

I was tempted to call it the British equivalent of Alexander Payne’s Sideways, but realized about halfway through the film that this would be unfair. Sideways and The Trip offer very different thoughts about life, though they share certain characteristics, namely their tendency to fall into the “dramedy” category. The Trip features Coogan as an uncertain actor who is struggling to decide between contentment and ambition, while Brydon does a great job of portraying a man who lives a happy life. The result is an interesting, understated yet undeniable rivalry.

At one point in the film, after Brydon has recited a Wordsworth poem near an English abbey, and after Coogan monologues with a somewhat insulting pseudo-eulogy for Brydon’s theoretical funeral, Coogan says to him “I would never stick the knife in. I might know...tickle you with the knife.” There’s no better phrase to describe their relationship in this film, and it was a real joy to watch two masters of the craft bounce off one another. Their impressions are always spot on, and sometimes lead to real laughs.

Another line that captures the soul of the movie is when Brydon calls out to Coogan as he attempts to cross a bridge of stones that spans a river. Brydon warns him “You’re stuck in a metaphor!” Stuck in a metaphor indeed. The film pitches a hard question in the form of a metaphor - would we rather be free or be contained? Would we rather be settled down or single? Famous or talented? The answers aren’t always forthcoming.

Ultimately, I enjoyed The Trip very much. I thought the acting was remarkable, the humor sufficiently dry and the drama effectively placed. I left this film with a feeling of genuine uncertainty, as though I had been privy to a road trip that might have changed someone’s life but never quite did. That was the idea, I think - to show, realistically - how hard it is to get off a road we’re on, once we’re on it.

THE BOTTOM LINE: What a good movie. Good, not great. Funny, but not hysterical. Sad, but not heartbreaking. Important, but distant, and most importantly, honest. 

Overall Score: 8.5/10 

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At July 14, 2012 at 1:34 AM , Blogger Tom Gooderson-A'Court said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this. I live close to many of the places in the film and have eaten at a couple of the resturants. They captured the scenery and food very well. In the UK this was presented as six half hour TV shows so I expect a lot was left out for the theatrical version. I really enjoyed the rivalry and the fact that although on the surface, Coogan has had the more sucsessful career, it is he who is more insecure. And you're spot on about the chemistry.

At July 14, 2012 at 2:04 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Ries (the guest reviewer) gives his thanks for the comment.

But yes, I agree with you. I've seen the movie too and loved it. I've been trying to find the TV show to watch. Also worth mentioning Brydon's "Man in a Box" routine that's just mindblowing.


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