Film Friday: The Trip (2010)

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Poster: The Trip, 2011. Directed by Michael Winterbottom, and based on BBC series of the same name.

Confession: I have a really loud laugh.

And yes, I know that can be very annoying in the cinema. I really can’t help it (or the sometimes-accompanying snort), but (thankfully?) I don’t often see films that really, really make me laugh.

The Trip is an exception. Fortunately, the people around me in the cinema thought so to, and I was largely drowned out.

The Trip is a foodie comedy road movie shot through with a sort of wistfulness that perhaps comes from the two lead actors playing versions of themselves. The film is constructed from edited-together footage from a BBC TV series in which the two — Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden — visit a series of restaurants in the north of England which Coogan has (for the purposes of the story) been commissioned to review for a national newspaper.

Despite this premise, and some lovingly shot scenes of restaurant kitchens, food very much takes a backseat in the film (assume you’re travelling in a bus — that sort of back seat).

Instead, the momentum and humour come from the interplay between the leads. Part friendship, part rivalry, their conversations and banter travel along a shifting boundary between their fictional and real selves. Both men are known as comic actors and gifted mimics, and it’s their mimicry that really brings the laughs.

Since The Trip, three more series and three more films have been made, with the pair travelling to different destinations in each. I have seen the second — The Trip, Italy — and found it funny although not significantly different to the original. I wonder if the third and fourth trips — to Spain and Greece — have found new territory to explore?

As actors playing actors in films that rely on naturalistic, possibly unscripted dialogue, most of the conversations are about the media. With that comes a sense that the audience is expected to be “in the know” — to be familiar with the people and films they talk about — indeed to be students of Coogan and Bryden’s own work. Without that knowledge, I doubt The Trip and it’s sequels would be nearly as funny.

So not a Top 100 movie, but one that has the power to make people laugh out loud. Right now, that’s no bad thing.

About Film Friday

Sarah at Art Expedition, and Darren, The Arty Plantsman have initiated this great new blogging project. You can find out more and see their chosen films for the week by visiting the latest post by Darren and Sarah.

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