Film Review: The Trip to Italy

by Chad Liffmann on August 29, 2014

The boys are back out of town.

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan strike an intellectual pose.

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan strike an intellectual pose.

You know when you think that your conversations with your friends are prime material for a movie, television show, or web series?  Well, 9 times out of 10, your conversations wouldn’t be very entertaining to others.  I’m guilty of this as well.  Thankfully we have Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan, two comedians who have now created two hilarious and engaging films mostly consisting of them talking and eating.  The Trip (2010) introduced us to the semi-improvised story of Rob and Steve, playing fictionalized versions of themselves, where the latter joined the former on a restaurant tour assignment in Northern England.  The Trip to Italy is a direct continuation from the first film, featuring the same bickering, multi-course meal montages, and Michael Caine impersonations that made the first trip so enjoyable…this time with a side of Italy and a pinch of emotional depth.

Both The Trip and The Trip to Italy are edited together from a BBC television series, season one and two respectively.  Director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, A Mighty Heart) does a fine job capturing the beautiful Italian countryside as well as providing ample coverage of the culinary dishes, but his biggest achievement is knowing to keep his stylistic tendencies to a minimum and just keep the cameras focused on the two stars.  On this second assignment in Italy, with Rob taking the helm, they follow the traditional Grand Tour through Italy taken by 19th century poets Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, stopping in six locations along the way.  We sit through their conversations about poetry, aging, celebrities, sexual temptations, and self worth.

As The Trip to Italy came to a thought-provoking finish, the comparison between this series and the Before series (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight) immediately came to mind.  The Trip to Italy could very well be an interesting middle chapter (I sure hope there’s a third in the works).  It extends the “real world universe” which The Trip first established, bringing in more side characters and engaging in unexpected drama.  Like the Before series, The Trip and The Trip to Italy contain dialogue meant to capture the thoughts of a specific age group.  Of course, the latter series is more of the comedy genre than the former’s romantic genre, and doesn’t have the same evolving complex emotional spectrum.  But there are moments within The Trip to Italy that are quite topical, hidden within Coogan’s hilarious cynicism or Brydon’s stream of voices, that meditate on the imperfections of human nature.  Then there are the moments in which the two engage in a battle of Michael Caine, Bane, and James Bond impersonations…and those are just downright deliciously funny.

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The Trip to Italy opens in select theaters Friday, August 29th.

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