THE TRIP TO SPAIN. Starring: Steve Coogan, and Rob Brydon. Also starring Claire Keelan, and Marta Barrio. Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Rated M (Coarse language). 111 min.
This is the latest movie in the series of road comedies featuring British comedians, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Previously, we saw “The Trip” (2010) and “The Trip to Italy” (2014). Now it is Spain’s turn. Each film in the series is directed by Michael Winterbottom.
The trip takes Coogan and Brydon through Spain from the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean coast, and they have meals in different places, including Cantabria, the Basque region of Spain, and Andalusia. The format is relatively simple. A scenic road trip through the countryside exposes the viewer to picturesque towns and villages, while Coogan and Brydon sample fine food at fabulous restaurants and hotels along the way.
As before, they spar together in comic fashion, and rival each other in witty impersonations of famous people. In this film, Coogan and Bryson resurrect people they have impersonated before, including Michael Caine, Al Pacino, and Woody Allen, and they add new targets to their list, which include David Bowie, Ian McKellen, and Mike Jagger. Their impersonations are very good, and their interactions establish a highlight, when the two of them impersonate the same person.
This film has the same broad format as their previous movies. As before, they deliver their routines with comic force, but in between the banter and repartee one senses in this film the signs of personal insecurity. Their friendship stays intact, the meals they enjoy together are still amazing, but they now rib each other often by sparring about their age, and lost career opportunities.
The movie makes it clear that both Coogan and Brydon are not getting younger, and both are conscious of the fact they are heading towards the far side of middle age. In this respect Winterbottom directs the movie in something of a new light by injecting a spirit of wistfulness into what is taking place. Coogan, for example, is starting to feel the consequences of bachelordom that keeps continuing, while Brydon is feeling the frustration of having made a decision to have a family late in life. For both of them, in different ways, time is running out.
Life circumstances, as depicted in the movie, still surround food and good scenery, but there is more drama that what we saw in “The Trip” and “The Trip to Italy.” A lot of the time, conversations over good food and wine come around to discussing fame and getting older. Coogan’s career is not going as well as he would like, and his ex-girlfriend has married another man. Brydon finds contentment in fatherhood, but he is anxious about it, and agreed to join Coogan on the trip to Spain to escape from some of its frustrations.
The movie plays with the Don Quixote theme, inviting literary comparisons of master and servant, that is suggestive. Unexpected tension comes when the film ends just after Coogan, out of drinking water and with a broken-down car, spots a truck approaching him along a lonely road in Africa with men in it wearing balaclavas. The movie fades with a worried look freezing on his face, but we are uncertain whether Coogan might be dreaming anxiously about his future.
This film, like its predecessors, captures Spain in all its picturesque glory. The cinematography in the film is splendid, and the trip is a gastronomic delight. Winterbottom obtains an amazing degree of spontaneity from his two main actors, but his direction is more introspective than before. He never lets us lose sight of the melancholy that lies just beneath the comic repartee of his two main players.
As before, the film shows two seasoned performers demonstrating a wonderful flare for spontaneous comedy. The film is very entertaining, and it is filled with marvellous comic moments. However, the film also reveals a sadness beneath the humour, which for some viewers will make this film the most interesting one of the three. And if one has ever wondered what is the best condiment to have with oysters, Spanish style, they will need to see the movie.
Peter Sheehan is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Released August 3rd., 2017