'The Trip to Italy' satisfies with food, fun, and conversation
PHOTO BY IFC
THE TRIP TO ITALY
Where is it playing?: The Palm in SLO
What's it rated?: NR
What's it worth?: $7.00
What's it worth?: $8.00
British comedians Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan return with a sequel to their 2010 comedy about food, travel, and celebrity impersonations, "The Trip." Directed by Michael Winterbottom, the film follows up on the premise of the first by having the two embark on a culinary journey through Italy, filled with gourmet meals, beautiful scenery, and improvised banter. (115 min).
Ed. Note: New Times Arts Editor Jessica Peña and her intern minion, Adriana Catanzarite, filled in for Glen this week.
Adriana: A British bromance movie sounds like a strange concept. In fact, bromance movies in general are strange, and slightly overused in mainstream media today. But comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon redefine the term in their film The Trip to Italy. This a sequel to the The Trip, which follows lightly fictionalized versions of the two actors as they drive around Northern England, reviewing restaurants and trading impersonations. Swap the north of England for the coast of Italy, keep the impressions, and add some visually stunning scenery, and that’s basically what The Trip to Italy is—with some more light fictionalization, that is. Where The Trip focused more on Coogan’s struggle with his career and personal life, The Trip to Italy concentrates on Brydon. Since the last film, Brydon and his wife, Sally (Rebecca Johnson), have grown apart, leading him to court the comely deckhand who works on one of the yachts they ride on. Cue the Hugh Grant impressions. For those who aren’t quite familiar with the quirkiness of British humor, it can seem a bit anti-climactic and dry, and some parts of the movie do seem to drag on—especially with all the impressions—but the verbal sparring and comedic timing of both Coogan and Brydon keep the film from falling flat.
Jessica: Yeah, I feel there should be a disclaimer for The Trip movies. They’re extremely British. By that, I don’t mean the two leads bathe in tea all day with their pinkies out, snacking on crumpets and hunting foxes with red coats. But the movies do benefit greatly from an intimate knowledge of British pop culture beyond the casual Hugh Grant rom-com. It helps tremendously to know that Steve Coogan is the more irascible, fame-obsessed one, and Brydon is like a goofier sidekick. If you can get behind that, and you like these two guys, then this is like paradise. It’s like an invitation to the liveliest and strangest dinner party you’ve always dreamed of, with Italian vistas to boot! Sure, the movie has no real structure. Two guys eat sumptuous meals of hand-made pastas, raviolis, seafood, and desserts for two hours while performing increasingly odd celebrity impressions at each other—that’s pretty much it. And yet, underneath the luxurious surface of scenic villas and cobblestone streets, there is, like the first movie, a very melancholy story about two friends who secretly envy each other and find themselves in a mid-life crisis. That, and more pasta!
Adriana: Also, there’s plenty of hilarity, including a scene where Brydon does his infamous small-man-in-a-box bit, and has an entire conversation with one of the plaster bodies from Pompeii, while Coogan looks on in annoyance. There’s another where Coogan and Brydon trade James Bond impressions and bellow at each other as competing Michael Caines, all while eating and drinking the drool-worthy mix of gourmet Italian food and wine. While all the impressions can be a little wearing at times, they still manage to draw laughs. However, in spite of all the hilarity, the main problem with this movie—besides the 90-minute Michael Caine impressions—is that because there’s so little plot going on, the audience pays more attention to the few events that happen throughout the trip. And the ending of the film offers little to no satisfaction in regard to wrapping up the story. It’s extremely abrupt. I found myself looking around when the credits started rolling, confused and thinking, “Wait it’s over?” In a movie that makes the audience really start to care about these slightly fictionalized characters, it’s disappointing that they receive no real denouement to their international adventure. Basically, they ate, they saw, they conquered.
Jessica: I don’t know. I kind of enjoy the aimlessness of the movie. What I enjoyed about The Trip initially was its natural rhythm and cadence. It felt like a glimpse of real people and real conversations. The same continues here. Granted, the roles have reversed. Brydon has a dalliance with a dame; Coogan grows closer to his family. And while those may seem like low stakes, they’re supremely enjoyable stakes for this old codger of a filmgoer. Though I wish the ratio of food porn to Batman and Bond-related impressions was more equal (it heavily edges on the latter), there’s still something to be said for a film that focuses so highly on dialogue. It’s refreshing even in its mundanity. There’s an intimacy achieved when, for instance, we glimpse Brydon and Coogan talking to their families late at night in their hotel rooms, or in the slight desperation of Brydon repeating the word “affable” some 50 times to get a laugh. It may be trying to some, but, like fine pasta, it’s sufficiently satisfying.
Jessica Peña and Adriana Catanzarite are VERY affable. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.