Dueling Opinions is a feature meant to provide two distinctly different critical looks at some recently-released films, a place for a more varied discussion of titles which have been the recipient of either an abundance of single-minded praise, or an undue amount of criticism. Our intent is not to contradict or undercut our own reviews, but rather to expand the spectrum of discussion. If you're interested in joining that discussion, please contact our email.
The Trip is the focus of today's Dueling Opinions and providing her own opinion of the film is Whitney Etchison followed up by editor Dan Gvozden's brief opinion of the film. To read the reviews, hit the jump.
Eat Food, Do Impressions, Get Laid - The Trip Review
by Whitney Etchison
As part of my recent film education (I grew up on a steady diet of Disney), my good friend Dan invited me to the fabulous Charles Theater* to see The Trip. I had no idea what the movie was about, but trusted Dan, whose summary of the movie was, “It’s based on a TV show of British guys who travel around eating stuff.” Seeing as I am OBSESSED with food and all things food, I was excited. (Excited enough that I happily ate a pre-movie pizza and drank three large bottles of Blackthorn Cider.)
I went into the theater pleasantly tipsy, and thus, don’t remember all the particulars of the first 10-15 minutes of the film. But I got the idea. Oldish British man with hair too long for his age is taking a foodie trip around Britain with his oldish British friend; both have only slightly bad teeth considering their native country. First British man would rather be on this trip with his younger, gorgeous girlfriend. Sadly, she is in America. This encourages him to sleep with every attractive female he happens upon, causing me to develop a slight hatred for the man. (Later, I found out that my fondness for cider caused me to miss the part where he and his girlfriend were on a break. I don’t hate him as much now.)
What ensues is an hour and a half of two middle-aged men doing impressions of numerous actors (apparently Michael Caine** is super famous.) Thanks to my trusty film-major buddy, I found out that the two men are well-known TV actors in Britain, Steve Coogan (from Tropic Thunder) and Rob Brydon.
By the end of the movie (there’s not much more to say about the middle), I had laughed a lot at the impressions, even though I often leaned over to whisper, “I have no idea who they are talking about.” I felt slightly sorry for Coogan, going home to his empty (albeit FRICKIN’ HUGE) apartment. And I thought Brydon was absolutely wonderful, going home to his wife, whom he talked to every night on the trip (I do always like a movie where the nice, relationship guy ends up happier than the jerky, oversexed one.)
Mostly, though, the movie seemed to me just a good excuse to make money compiling footage of two guys who go eat fancy food, hang out, and make fun of each other and anyone else they feel appropriate. I didn’t feel like I’d wasted my time or money, but I wasn’t terribly impressed...
Imagine my surprise when I got in the car with my two guy friends and found out I was TOTALLY WRONG. Unbeknownst to me, this had been a deep and moving movie about a self-absorbed man (Coogan) who realized, after a pivotal phone conversation with his teen-aged son, that he was taking his old friend (Brydon) for granted, and then grew to truly appreciate the closeness of their friendship. And there I thought it was just two guys showing affection to one another in the normal way -- by being dicks! Oops! Apparently, if you are into subtle nuances (and don’t start out with a generous amount of alcohol) you might feel some tugs on the heartstrings.
* An art-house theater in Baltimore, Maryland. It has a tapas bar attached, where they allow you to take to-go sangria into the theater. TO-GO SANGRIA.
** He’s the butler in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, in case you were wondering. I know, I’m a total film peasant.
"It's a Metaphor" and a Brilliant Comedy - The Trip Review
by Dan Gvozden
I'm not sure if it was my lack of indulgence in Blackthorn Cider or my inherent knowledge of all things film related that has me feeling differently than Whitney about Michael Winterbottom's The Trip, but I can personally attest to feeling some genuine tugs at my heartstrings and tickles to my funny bone.
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's performances as slightly-twisted versions of themselves feel almost too honest, as if they might be having some completely genuine introspection while performing these scenes. Their chemistry might be the best of the year, turning The Trip into a better film about male-bonding than The Hangover could ever hope to be.
As the two travel around the British countryside writing about food they are eating, on the payroll of the UK newspaper The Observer, they spend most of their time reflecting on their careers and pondering their futures. This typically takes the form of conversations over their meals that involve some of the best and most humorous impressions I've seen put to screen. Here is one example:
If you are familiar with the characters they are doing, almost all of them you will be immediately recognizable, you can notice the subtleties to Coogan and Brydon's performances. What is at one moment incredibly funny can quickly become a moment of tragedy. The film and its characters are completely aware of these shifts in tone and make the best of out of them. One scene has Coogan attempting to cross a river by hopping on some stepping stones before he gets caught halfway. Brydon is quick to scream at the top of his lungs, "It's a metaphor!"
Brydon is absolutely right and as not-subtle as that moment is, The Trip is incredibly subtle in other ways that really allows the audience to feel for these characters, who often transcend the silver screen.
The film really shows its heart through its characters' solo performances. Coogan really is at a point in his life where his career may have passed him by and his own analysis of his friendship with Brydon, who has the family life Coogan was never able to attain, allows him to reassess what is important in his life.
Despite all of his analysis and incessant insults that he slings at Brydon, Coogan reveals his own fragmented sense of self-worth in a particularly touching scene where he fails at replicating a character (a small man trapped in a box) that Brydon is well known for. Meanwhile, Brydon, the less-successful of the two, reveals his strengths as a family-man who has come to terms with his less dignified career.
Amidst all the laughs and pathos, The Trip is a story of friendship and mid-life crisis that is above-all honest. It's protagonist's arcs might be small and the comedy per minute ratio low, but by doing so Winterbottom has created real characters that are not only touching, but brilliantly comedic.
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