“The Trip – Complete Movie Box Set”
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Featuring: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon
Steve Coogan: “Originality is overrated.”
Released on DVD recently are the movie versions of all four series of the hit comedy “The Trip” featuring at its core actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon and Director Michael Winterbottom who take a road trips around different parts of Europe which are coupled with a theme fir each one that become more pronounced as the series developed over the past ten years. All the while doing the same old schtick of telling jokes, giving a history of the are they are in, insulting each other and offering impressions. What is immediately apparent throughout the four movies is the growing tiredness that at times permeates the air of our two protagonists, whilst Rob seems as usual brimming with enthusiasm his partner Steve seems not only tired of the same routine but challenges Rob in almost every episode whether it be about guessing the bill, Rob over talking Steve at points, the idea of what Alan Partridge means and their general disagreeable about a variety of topics, Steve’s perceived success of himself at the cost of Rob or that Rob does not seem to care about that aspect of his life.
The original series of the “The Trip” (no coincidence that the Odyssey was ten years and this travel series has been about the same time) was broadly based around Steve, in an effort to impress his gourmet girlfriend, Mischa (Margo Stilley), accepts a commission from The Observer to go on a restaurant tour of the north of England. When Mischa insists they take a break from their relationship, Steve invites colleague and friend-of-sorts Rob Brydon. On the trip, Coogan has a number of one-night stands, but is miserable professionally and personally, despite being the bigger star; Brydon, with his young family, is more content and laid-back. In the second series, Rob and Steve are commissioned to do another restaurant tour, this time in Italy from Piedmont to Capri, following in the footsteps of the great Romantic poets in the early 19th century on the Grand Tour. While on the tour, Rob wins a part in an American Michael Mann film, which Steve bristles with the idea of. In the third series, Rob and Steve are commissioned to do another restaurant tour, this time in Spain.
With the latest and the last, both actors feel more apart than ever, almost like they are not only over each other but would both rather be somewhere else. In the first series it seemed like a diversion, especially for Steve, as each subsequent series has evolved the idea who the trips were for has altered, now we see that maybe both Steve and Rob may rather be in others company.
It is always important to remember that both Steve and Rob are not themselves but are heightened versions of themselves with fictitious elements brought into the series which also means that their points of view and other personal elements must be taken as a fiction also. This means of course that they can be someone other than they actually are which is a freedom few get to experience and make art out of which is fantastic. Some of the best aspects of the series are when we think we are seeing some truth but it probably is the opposite. My favourite segments of the show have moved away from the meals when the two stars would riff on mimicking other actors, the most famous now being Al Pacino and Michael Caine which still appear here, the importance of which has diminished as time has moved forward. When we see Steve in a stolen moment actually being entertained by Rob is something truly special, the smiles and actual joy are something to see from someone who thinks they might be a better actor and bigger star than they actually are, who seems to dismiss public acknowledgement but loves being recognised by anyone, especially at his partners expense. However we see less and less of the ‘real’ Rob, there are few moments when I think I might actually be seeing some real part of him, for me his performance is either all real or all artifice.
There are so many moments in this series that are so good that by the time we witness them we are already on to the next scene or segment which is a strength and a weakness, we never delve too long on one topic or in one place, the narrative style created by director Michael Winterbottom has increased over the ten years with the latest one possibly the busiest. Winterbottom has proved himself to be one of the greatest living English directors to have emerged in the past five decades, his work is eclectic in a good way with this travelogue not only defying its genre but introducing a new one where celebrities tour but with a knowing eye on themselves and their audience.
There is much to discuss in terms of this series but the idea of mortality and what that means hangs over the show especially with Steve’s father being sick and on death’s door and Rob with his family not seeming to notice he has even gone on a trip. Add that with the fallen Empire they are travelling through and them constantly talking about the legacies some of the greatest thinkers have left behind it is not difficult to see what the underlying theme is.
This is a movie series that is not only original, but insightful, self reverential as well as being completely entertaining that needs to be seen, I would also recommend watching the television versions as well.
The Trip (2010) – Coogan and Brydon’s roles as fictionalised versions of themselves are a continuation of their improvised performances in the film “A Cock and Bull Story” (2005), also directed by Michael Winterbottom. In an interview with The Guardian, Coogan said he and Brydon exaggerated “the aspects of ourselves that help the comedy … I like playing with the fact that it might be me, to give it a bit more edge. So some of the conversations with Rob are funny, but some of them are very uncomfortable. They’re sort of genuine arguments. It’s a sort of an exaggeration of real life.”
The Trip to Italy (2014) – Rob has been commissioned by a newspaper to go on a road trip through Italy from Piedmont to Capri, partly following in the footsteps of the great Romantic poets. Steve joins him, and as they journey through the beautiful Italian countryside, they contemplate life, love and their careers.
The Trip to Spain (2017) – Steve convinces Rob to go on a road trip through Cantabria, the Basque region, Aragon, La Rioja, Castile, La Manchaand Andalucia, retracing the journey Steve took as a young man. On their journey the pair discuss history, fame, and fatherhood.
The Trip to Greece (2020) – The fourth series is set in Greece where Rob and Steve conduct a restaurant tour that follows the path of the Odyssey.