Must-See Movie Review: 'The Trip' (2010)

2010’s The Trip is hands down the best improv comedy I’ve ever seen. This movie is truly flawless. The plot centers on actors Steve Coogan (perhaps best known in the U.S. for Night at the Museum) and Rob Brydon playing fictional versions of themselves as they go on a road trip of northern England visiting various restaurants and hotels.

The Trip features one of the most brilliant and bitingly hilarious repartee in recent memory. The twist of them playing “themselves” only adds to the film’s appeal. Coogan has great fun lampooning his public persona.

While some actors might use the opportunity of playing themselves to do some damage control, Coogan does just the opposite. He instead embraces the worst things that have been or could be said about him and where some would go over the top in making it a caricature, he plays it with a subdued and genuine tone. Even being the worst version of himself he still remains highly likable.

Coogan needed someone to balance himself out and he has found comedy gold with screen partner, Rob Brydon. Their magical chemistry is the linchpin of the entire movie. If it wasn’t for the ingredient of Brydon it simply would not have worked.

Before seeing The Trip, I had only seen him once before whilst promoting this movie on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and was blown away by his impressions. The man is a legend in the U.K. and it is well-deserved. Among his impressions are Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, Roger Moore, Al Pacino and the Michael Caine impression to end all Michael Caine impressions. Those are just some of them.

Brydon is an amazing talent. In the film, he plays a version of himself that wants to be friends with Coogan who begrudgingly shows signs of warmth towards him though mostly treats him as a pest. At times, in a seeming act of self-defense, he seems to switch to living in his own world where he cannot be hurt by the barbs thrown by Coogan. It is fascinating to watch the dynamic between them play out.

What Coogan and Brydon do so well with The Trip is they take you into the world of actors. There remains a lot of mystery as to what actors are really like. Who are the people that portray the characters that affect us so deeply? Are they like the characters they play? Has fame gone to their heads? Do they still talk to their parents?

A lot of members in the acting community feel that it is questions like these that help maintain their abilities to inhabit varying roles. They feel that remaining an enigma to the public is essential to creating the illusion of their screen presence. There are others who just love to get paid for playing themselves.

Unfortunately, few and far between have the ability to do that. It takes the “it” factor to be able to be someone that people want to watch period. No one exemplifies this phenomenon more than John Wayne. People loved John Wayne and enjoyed watching him for 2 hours, regardless of the fact he was not the greatest actor. He didn’t have to go method, and perform a grand transformation.

Obviously, the skill to perform on the level of say Daniel Day-Lewis or Gary Oldman is rare so they are thrilling to watch. The discipline to perform on that level takes a degree of skill that most actors spend their entire career trying to spend on at least one film. Day-Lewis and Oldman use that intensity on every film they are in. On the other hand there is a comfort in knowing that like John Wayne; sometimes we just want to see the “movie star”.  

The Trip addresses these issues in hilarious fashion, and provides an inside look into the side of the industry you rarely hear about, the constant struggle that is experienced between roles i.e. the desire to have “working” before the title of actor. It is a profession rift with anxiety that their current gig might be there last and if they are at the pinnacle of their career that it is the last stop before Forgotten City.

It also reminds those who confuse them with gods, they are just real people who put their pants on one foot at a time. This film makes actors accessible as people. While most movies about “the industry” (i.e. State and Main) seem false, and controlled as to what they want to express, The Trip is sincere.

This film beautifully illustrates the difference not only between two different types of actors but different kind of people in general; it is a wonderful character study. Coogan demonstrates the struggle of his professions’ anxiety, as he awaits word on the latest prospect from his agent. Brydon on the other hand is soaking up his popularity. He isn’t stressed about what is around the corner, he’s enjoying the ride.

As the trip continues and Coogan becomes more frustrated by his career crossroads, a seemingly unfazed Brydon only serves to frustrate him more. Coogan tries to get under Brydon’s skin and chip away at his security.

One of several interesting character developments through the course of the film is Brydon keeping safe guard of his happiness and eventually Coogan realizing that without his pal’s optimism life would be worse. He never lets on to Brydon that he appreciates him.

Instead they have impression-offs and engage in witty banter about everything from movies to life and even to their funerals. Director Michael Winterbottom keeps the movie on point and with a rhythm that never lets the moments stall or go beyond its life-cycle. Case in point, the film Bridesmaids where the toast scene that was at first amusing; dragged on ad nauseam.

While The Trip is hilarious (you have to watch it with the remote in hand so that you can rewind it to hear what you missed while laughing), it also tells an intriguing story. It goes deeper than most comedies by keeping it simple. It gives you an inside look at the British. It is neat to get an inside peak into the English experience.

Whilst on the journey, you will also be taken on a tour of the scenic views of Northern England and given an invaluable glimpse into their culture. Personally, there is no question that this film is brilliant. You will not want it to end. There is word of a sequel, and I’ll be ready for another “trip”. Rating: 10/10