The Trip to Italy
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
The Trip to Italy reprises the premise of 2010’s The Trip, with comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon—again playing versions of themselves stranded on slightly less elevated career plateaus, having attained slightly less self-awareness—again sent by a British on a culinary tour by a British newspaper, the Observer. (The film, edited to feature length from a six-part BBC series, is very specific in its references to the UK media industry, as well as in its shop talk, fostering a certain amount of confusion over which parts of Coogan and Brydon’s respective c.v.s—and personalities—are actually counterfeited for the project.)
A certain sense of junket-justification does makes its way into The Trip to Italy, not just in the in-character jokes about padded word counts and expense accounts, but also in the structure of the comedic improvisations, in which Brydon’s eager-to-please segues into impersonations of Welsh and professional forbears (and a terrible Al Pacino) rouse Coogan to irritability and competitiveness. Again, plates (pasta and seafood), and landscape (terraced hills and rocky coasts) are backdrop to poetry readings (from the English Romantics, generally in put-on accents) and professional-rivalry bickering; again, director Michael Winterbottom breaks up the dining centerpieces with plug-and-play kitchen cutaways. What goads the film beyond complacency, ultimately, are the punctuations of genuine comedic inspiration—both via the new imitations, particularly some unironic Alanis Morissette singalongs, and in Coogan and Brydon’s loving antagonism—and the surprisingly prickly take on midlife reversals of previous certainties.
Opens August 15