January 4, 2012
If I’d known that The Trip, released last summer and now available on DVD, was a buddy movie I probably never would have rented it. But, of course, the title snagged me and I’m glad it did because it‘s a classic road flick, with a couple of endearing twists.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom and first released as a BBC2 television series, “The Trip” starts with British funny men Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (as themselves) taking off in a Range Rover for a culinary tour of the North Country. Coogan, who is writing up the excursion for The Times of London, planned to take his beautiful young girlfriend along, but when she cancels he asks his old friend Brydon. Both are actors and compulsive competitors whose dueling Michael Caine impressions and escalating battles for the best bon mot cannot disguise deep insecurities that make them immeasurably more likeable than the pair of losers who embark on a California wine-tasting tour in the 2004 movie Sideways.
As in any good road movie it’s about the journey, not the destination: recitations of Wordsworth and Coleridge in the English Lake District, en route sing-alongs (including a Coogan-Brydon rendition of Burt Bacharach’s vocals from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and strange encounters with small, tall portions of gourmet food. In one sequence especially beloved by fans the guys riff on a line from what could be Shakespeare: “Gentlemen to bed for we rise at daybreak“ becomes “Gentlemen to bed for we leave at 9:30.”
Their routines ensue amid glorious North Country settings. When I wasn’t laughing I was remembering my own trips there, once hiking from barn-to-barn in the Lake District National Park, another time waiting out a downpour on 1,167-foot Honister Pass above Lake Buttermere. But the scenery is secondary in the movie, a world-class backdrop for human chatter and obsession that forms a satirical arch over the proceedings and puts The Trip on my short list of memorable road movies. My all-time favorites?
- Frank Capra‘s 1934 comedy It Happened One Night, starring Claudette Colbert as a runaway heiress tailed by reporter Clark Gable. Who could ever forget her teaching him how to thumb a ride?
- Two for the Road, directed by Stanley Donen in 1967, with Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn falling in love on a trip through the French countryside and then retracing their steps 10 years later to keep their marriage alive.
- Ridley Scott‘s Thelma and Louise, from 1991, which has Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis headed for oblivion in the Great American Southwest.
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