“The Trip to Italy”, which is the sequel to “The Trip” (2010), is pretty much same as before except a few things. While its two stars happen to have another restaurant trip coupled with a number of nice hotels and restaurants, they go to Italy in this time, and, yes, they talk a lot with each other during this leisurely trip decorated with food and scenery.
At the beginning, Steve Coogan gets a phone call from his old friend Rob Brydon, who has just accepted a commission from the Observer to write the article about a restaurant tour in Italy. Brydon suggests that he and Coogan should go together as they did in “The Trip”, and Coogan accepts his friend’s invitation although their previous restaurant trip was not exactly a fantastic experience for both of them.
I have no idea about how much real Coogan and Brydon resemble their fictional versions in the film, but these two talented British comedians are engaging actors to watch, and the director Michael Winterbottom wisely lets his actors loose during their restaurant scenes as serving us with those obligatory kitchen shots from time to time. While going through their full course meal step by step, Coogan and Brydon always find something to keep their table conversation rolling as frequently throwing acerbic banters at each other, and I bet they would go on and on even if they had to wait for their dessert for the rest of the day. Even when they reprise one of the most amusing moments from the previous film, this funny comic duo goes a bit further to tickle us more, and it is still funny to see them doing the imitations of Michael Caine’s voice.
And we gradually come to see their private concerns on age and other things in their life. The rivalry between them is evident as usual, and Brydon wants to be more famous like Coogan, who has been enjoying more success outside UK through his appearances in several recent Hollywood films. At one point, Brydon is asked to do an audition for a supporting role in some big major Hollywood film, and he cannot possibly be more excited about this although he is not sure about whether he can really pull it off well. Coogan feels envy about this, but he helps his friend anyway when Brydon tries to shoot his audition video.
Meanwhile, their trip continues with more nice dishes and beautiful landscapes which will surely induce your desire for your own trip to Italy. While “Im Abendrot” from “Vier letzte Lieder” by Richard Strauss is gloriously played on the soundtrack, they enjoy a brief but refreshing yacht sail to a wonderful beach restaurant, and Brydon later finds himself having made a mistake not long after being attracted to one of young yacht crew members. They go around the famous places associated with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, and the private life of these famous British Romantic poets naturally becomes a target for humor during their conversation. They also visit the ruins of Pompeii, and Brydon has a small humorous moment when he attempts to be funny using one of those mummified bodies in exhibition, much to Coogan’s annoyance.
Later in the movie, Coogan’s son Joe (Timothy Leach) comes to meet his dad along with Coogan’s assistant Emma (Claire Keelan). Coogan and his son have not been very close to each other despite their constant correspondence, but they are glad to spend time together after having a good meal with Emma and Brydon at some restaurant in Capri. As a guy who becomes more conscious of his age just like his friend, Coogan comes to feel the need of being closer to his son, though many things still remain uncertain between father and son.
Like the previous film, “The Trip to Italy” was edited from six 30-minute episodes, which were broadcast on BBC Two in UK around the time when the movie version was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2014. As far as I could see, there is not any visible awkward transition in the movie version, and I am considering watching the TV version just for enjoying more of its lighthearted atmosphere and entertaining banters exchanged between Coogan and Brydon.
While I noticed Coogan for the first time as the lead actor of silly comedy adventure film “Around the World in 80 Days” (2004), it took some time for me to notice Brydon in comparison. He and Coogan were quite hilarious in Winterbottom’s quirky comedy film “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story” (2005), and their many absurd moments in the film almost made me convinced that Laurence Sterne’s infamously ‘unflimable’ novel was one of the fictional jokes in the film. I later learned the novel does exist, and, after reading it, I was more amused by what I remembered from the film, which revolves around the problematic production of a movie adapted from Sterne’s novel (nobody in the film actually read it except one supporting character, for instance).
On the whole, “The Trip to Italy” is a minor excursion in Winterbottom’s long, illustrious career. After “The Trip”, he attempted an Indian variation of Thomas Hardy’s “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” in “Trishna” (2011), and then it was followed by a small intimate family drama “Everyone” (2012), which, in my humble opinion, deserves more attention for its interesting filmmaking experiment similar to Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” (2014). While “The Trip to Italy” mostly stays in its comfort zone, the movie is constantly enjoyable thanks to the good chemistry between Coogan and Brydon, and we will probably meet them again in another restaurant trip later. They are fun, smart, and interesting guys, and they may have their own version of “My Dinner with Andre” (1981) someday.