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article imageOp-Ed: TIFF 2010 - British humour, lush scenery the stars of The Trip Special

By David Silverberg     Sep 14, 2010 in Entertainment
Watching The Trip, screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, is like listening in on a conversation between two comedian buddies who can't wait to annoy each other. It's an enjoyable film, but it could've been tighter.
If you think 109 minutes of two Brits travelling across the English countryside would be a snoozfest, you haven't met Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. The two actors play themselves in a film centering on Coogan's fictionalized gig to review restaurants for the UK Observer. Brydon joins his friend when Coogan's on-off girlfriend can't come along.
The repartee between the comedians is laugh-aloud funny at times, especially when they trade impersonations. You won't soon forget hearing Michael Caine's accent, best delivered by Brydon. It seems he's a wee bit obsessed with accents, trying his hand at Richard Burton, Ian McKellan, Sean Connery and Woody Allen. These impersonations get tiresome later in the film, but when they break up the dead air between dishes at a four-star restaurant, for instance, they're refreshing fillers.
No wonder Coogan and Byrdon get along so smashingly. They starred in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, about shooting an "unfilmable film", and their one-liners quickly elevated that film into cult status (not to mention Brydon's flirtations with Gillian Anderson). You can tell these two are comfortable with each other's flaws, even if Coogan hams up how annoyed he is by Brydon's constant jokes.
Where's the tension in this film? After all, it's a buddy road trip, showcasing gorgeous vistas and mountain ranges to add some visual heft to the back-and-forth dialogue. The conflict is most apparent when Coogan calls home to his girlfriend, trying to maintain intimacy despite his extracurricular activities with hotel concierges and photojournalists. You start to pity Coogan halfway through The Trip -- he tries to look at the lighter side of life with his humour, but he's lonely and aimless. Still under the radar of many Hollywood director, Coogan even dreams about Ben Stiller offering him blockbuster roles with "all the brothers, the Coen brothers, the Wachowski brothers."
Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in the UK film The Trip
Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in the UK film The Trip
Courtesy TIFF
By the 75 minute mark, the film loses its momentum. The Trip could've used tighter editing, cutting off jokes when they lost steam or leaving out those long walks along rolling valleys. Sure, it's stunning stuff, but we care more about the characters than we do about the scenery. In this two-hander, did director Michael Winterbottom want the UK countryside to masquerade as the third actor?
There's no big reveal by the film's ending. You won't be shocked or teary or excited. Rather, it's a wind-down from the fast-paced conversations between the two friends, almost like a slow dissolve. But it's not an unappetizing ending, nor do you feel ripped off by The Trip. Coogan and Brydon deliver what they're meant to give us -- great jokes, strong personalities and a strange feeling we will soon see them partner once again in another film.
The Trip is one of many films reviewed during TIFF. Read our other reviews: Casino Jack, Conviction, Bad Faith.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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