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The Trip is a very funny movie about avery sad man. Steve (Steve Coogan, basically playing himself) is a 44-year-old actor who’s afraid his big break has passed him by. He’s given a magazine assignment to tour the snootier restaurants of England and thinks it will be the perfect getaway to rekindle his romance with Mischa (Margo Stilley); instead, she wants to put the relationship on hold. So after everyone else says no, he asks a friendly professional rival, Rob (Rob Brydon, also pretty much as himself), to come along.
Michael Winterbottom’s largely improvised film is a sillier My Dinner With Andre, with little action besides Steve and Rob eating meals involving foam while trying to outdo one another with impressions of famous actors (Michael Caine and Al Pacino are highlights) and sincerely deconstructing ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All.” Throughout, there are go-nowhere calls to Steve’s agent, cruel dreams that he’s actually made it big, and discussions of whether he’d be OK with his son taking ill if it would mean he would win an Oscar. There are also brief and completely unloving conversations with Mischa, for which he broken-heartedly compensates by sleeping with other women along the way. Meanwhile, Rob is content with doing endless impersonations and missing his wife and baby.
Coogan devastatingly portrays his character’s midlife crisis by rarely smiling despite all the goofiness, even when he’s participating. (Mocking wartime period pieces, he and Rob riff on the requisite Big Speech: “Gentlemen, to bed! For tomorrow we rise at…what time’s the battle?”) The two realistically portray a friendship that’s so close they have no trouble showing how much they can irritate one another.
But the crux of the film is Steve’s depression and loneliness. He clearly feels he’s the guy on the losing side of “The Winner Takes It All,” and his melancholy will stay with you as vividly as his Michael Caine.