Wish You Were Here, by Jack Fleischer
The Trip is a light British comic faux-documentary, starring notable UK actors Steve Coogan (The Other Guys) and Rob Brydon (Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story). The meat of story is simple enough. Coogan gets a gig as a guest reporter for The Observer, and when his girlfriend drops out of the trip at the last minute, he pulls his friend Rob along for a weeklong tour of top-flight restaurants in the North of England.
First, I need to clarify that this isn’t a documentary or mockumentary. There’s no film crew “following” the pair as they make the trip. Instead Coogan and Brydon play fictional versions of themselves who are only performing for each other, and anyone else within earshot … and perform for each other they do. They get on each other’s nerves, play games of constant one-upmanship, and debate who has had the better career. I didn’t find this out until later, but apparently the film is a “spin off” of another of director Michael Winterbottom’s films: Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. Apparently Coogan and Brydon play the versions of themselves that also appear in Shandy.
The bulk of this film has the pair sitting opposite each other in upscale country restaurants doing impression showdowns — most notably and consistently Michael Caine. Then there are beautiful walks through the countryside that lead to at least one truly great scene with Coogan encountering a local expert at the top of a rocky hill.
On the surface, this movie is fun because it’s about following two witty people as they explore scenery and elegant cuisine. There are some fun dream sequences (with a cameo or two), good interpersonal drama and funny lines, but really this movie largely hinges on the pair’s improv skills.
If you dig on BBC comedy, are a foodie, and live for the Travel Channel, this is your movie. But, if any of that doesn’t juice you, there isn’t much else to sink your teeth into.
The movie doesn’t really have a plot, but it is a fun travelogue. There are nice glamour shots of the food coming together, beauty shots of foreign hotel clerks, and stunning perspectives of the rolling English hills. One oddly fascinating reoccurring bits was watching how each restaurant announced and petegried each dish as it arrived at the table.
It definitely helps to know your English pop-culture here. Another late discovery for me was that this is actually a re-edit of a BBC TV show. Maybe this discovery colors my opinion, but now that I think about it, it did feel like there was something absent, and that what little “plot” there was seemed forced and out of place.
I enjoyed The Trip, but I will have to watch it again after a few more Netflixed movies (including Shandy), and see if it might lift this merely funny comedy into something more.