Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Trip to Italy Movie Review

In The Trip to Italy, comedian Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan re-team with director Michael Winterbottom for a sequel to The Trip. This time, instead of a food tour of the north of England, they are following in the footsteps of Percy Shelley and Lord Byron from Piedmont to Capri.

The two are slightly older now and in their advancing age and settling careers they have become more melancholy. Though they still laugh and smile and enjoy the beauty around them, there is a wistful quality beneath that reveals their dissatisfaction. Playing fictionalized versions of themselves, Steve has a teenage son who lives with his ex-wife. Rob has a wife and young daughter. His wife never seems to have time for him and Rob falls into a little dalliance with a woman he meets.

In Italy, Rob and Steve come into conflict with each other less than they did in England, as I recall. Mostly they riff off one another, going on extended bouts of improvisational impressions, skits, and monologues. Back is the Michael Caine impression, which I must admit feels a bit like a sequel just re-treading what worked the first time around. But there’s plenty of new and very funny material here.

The Trip to Italy is a more serious film than its predecessor. Rob and Steve wax on such topics as life, love, and death – you know, the minor details of living – often through the words of the great Romantic poets whose ghosts they are following. Most hilariously – and later rather sadly – Rob can never express himself except through and impression of some other celebrity. When he wants to be angry, annoyed, or fiery he brings out his Pacino. When he gets shy and romantic his Hugh Grant emerges. It’s funny because it expresses how certain actors are cast for particular traits they express, but it’s sort of depressing when you realize that Rob is incapable of finding his own voice for his feelings. Even the movie audition he submits is a slightly mellower version of Al Pacino.

This is a lovely film to look at and it will make you wish you were in places like Rome, Amalfi, and Capri eating such sumptuous food as they consume on camera. But there’s a transformative effect of those things that Brydon and Coogan experience and it’s not entirely certain they will ever leave their new surroundings. Shelley died in Sardinia, after all.

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