by James Gilmore
The Trip is a comedic film reconstituted from a short-lived improv TV series of the same name, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as fictional (and sometimes not so fictional) versions of themselves. Off-beat and off-color, this hybrid mockumentary/traditional film narrative delivers comedy that might not be to taste for the general American viewing public. Although presented as a low-key comedy, the film is really a sad coming of middle-age story at heart.
The plot follows a foodie pilgrimage taken by non-foodies, unfolding to reveal the life of an aging, professional actor as he approaches a sort of mid-life crisis. But beneath the façade of this simple story is one man’s journey as he is confronted with the revelation that he hides in a fantasy world and must face the brutal truth about his own life, and in so doing transcend from the idles of youth into the maturity of adulthood. For this the film and especially the direction are commendable. Unfortunately, in part because of its conception and in part due to its nature as an ad-hoc film edited together from a TV series, The Trip fails to deliver a strong story arc, resolution of sub-plots or character relationships. The true core of the film cannot be better illustrated than by Steve Coogan’s line: “It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.”
The film’s comedy is both passive-aggressive and extremely understated, often to the point of there being no joke or gag at all, merely subtext and unspoken situation which presents itself as genuinely humorous. Especially entertaining is the continuous battle of dinner table impressions, namely those of Michael Cain and Woody Allen.
Coogan’s acting proves to be one of the most impressive aspects of the film as he demonstrates his chops for more serious roles (not to mention that he won a BAFTA for his acting in The Trip).