The Trip (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
7Jul/110

The Trip (2010)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

"It's better to have done one great thing..." Steve Coogan insists at one point during The Trip. "Than to have never known greatness."

His travel companion, Rob Brydon, nods thoughtfully at this, even though it's come after a long, angry tirade about Brydon's successful career as an impersonator and Coogan's flailing attempts for film stardom. Brydon may be acting polite at this moment, since its clear to him and anyone in the audience that Coogan is desperately scrambling to put up a brave front.

Coogan has done his one great thing, and he knows it. Where does he go from there?

It's unfair of me to take you there in a simple film review, as the movie takes a great deal of pleasure of constructing and reconstructing who Coogan really is, whether he's Coogan the actor or Coogan the person. Is he an insecure egomaniac? An addict to sex and drugs? A bully?

Of course, you, the audience for this film, may be lost coming into the film if you don't know who Coogan is. While stateside we're more familiar with his role as the villain in The Other Guys or his turn as Phinneas Fogg in the misfire Around the World in 80 Days from a couple years back, across the pond he's famous for the previously mentioned 'great' creation, Alan Partridge.

"Ah... ha?"

Partridge is a hopelessly inept talk show host with a penchant for Abba and a catchphrase of "Ah ha!". Through various shows, he's slowly spiraled into a has-been whose ego and thickheaded sensibilities often leave him disliked by all around him. His numerous flaws often compound upon one another until he unleashes everything in a tirade of pitiable misplaced rage. What part of Partridge's personality speaks to Britain is nothing I can comment on, besides noting that his eternal quest for fame and recognition, eternally doomed to backfire, may just give the nation an symbolic case of schadenfreude.

Back to The Trip. The information I gave you above is a vital clue to unlocking the journey that follows, which follows Coogan as he tours several restaurants in the north of England. After his girlfriend declines taking the journey with him, he calls upon his friend Rob. Brydon is Coogan's opposite, a blustering optimist with a loving wife and baby.

The sights are gorgeous and the food is tantalizing. The relationship between the two men is contentious, with Coogan unstable and bitter and Brydon more easygoing. Both make a go of trying to entertain each other, each  impersonating famous actors, ranging from Michael Caine to Woody Allen.

Those impersonations serve another meaning, of course, as both men spend the movie trying to sublimate themselves: Coogan self depreciates to try and hide his own ego, and Brydon does so to hopefully get Coogan to accept him as a friend.

"Vodka martini. Shaken, not stirred."

Michael Winterbottom, the director, is visiting Coogan and Brydon's minds for the second time, as his previous film, Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, also tread on similar ground. This film takes those threads of contempt between the two men and builds upon them into a tit for tat exploration of ego.

Both films shimmer with genius as it sets the audience up for questions they can't answer. Where does the real Coogan end and the on-screen Coogan begin? What really lurks beneath the surface, and can they find any contentment within?

Both have appeared to have learned at least one lesson: for the first time in almost a decade, there's a new Alan Partridge series. Much to what I imagine to be Coogan's chagrin, if greatness can't be recreated, it may as well be repeated.

Posted by Danny

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