Michael Winterbottom's THE TRIP on the big screen
The new Michael Winterbottom film, starring beloved duo Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden, is at times hilarious and often insightful, if not a little slap-dash. Meaning? Well, it’s been put together quickly and simply with a disarmingly straightforward premise: Two actor frenemies named Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden (basically playing slightly ridiculous versions of themselves) go on the road in Northern England for a promotional food tour. Hilarity ensues. But is that hilarity a product of a series of escalating mishaps otherwise known as plot? No. There is no plot. There is a series of locations, a series of over-the-top gourmet meals featuring the likes of duck fat lollipops, a series of Coogan one-night stands, and a series of very funny conversations.
Situations such as poor cell service to Coogan’s ambivalent girlfriend Mischa (Margo Stilley) and whether or not to take a role in an American television show bear down only lightly on the narrative; they are more akin to a tiny stream of story just bubbling along than steps in the staircase of rising action. So the question becomes, how suited is this meandering material for the big screen?
Indeed, THE TRIP was created originally in six parts for BBC2, and perhaps that’s where it feels most at home. Not that the big screen can’t tolerate a good meander – it most certainly can, see CLEO FROM 5-7, THE SINGLE GIRL, OLD JOY and dozens of other plot-less wonders, but those films have a serious investment in the visual, which THE TRIP simply does not. Winterbottom’s hilarious TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY fares much better on the big screen, with its more complex plot, larger cast and multiple themes. All that said, nobody can deny that Coogan and Bryden’s dynamic is very very funny – some of their best impressions of actors, like this bit on Michael Caine, are easily youtube-able. And laughing along with others in a dark theatre? Always fun.