The Trip to Greece, 2020.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom.
Starring Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan, Cordelia Bugeja, Rebecca Johnson, Claire Keelan, and Tim Leach.
Actors Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan travel from Troy to Ithaca following in the footsteps of the Odysseus.
Farewells are often bittersweet. For Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip” storyline, where better to bid adieu than the birthplace of comedy and tragedy? The Trip To Greece continues an evolution that cements Winterbottom’s voyeuristic voyages as Linklater’s “Before” trilogy but for bromances (and no longer a trilogy). Dry wines, drier comedy, and impressions over Michelin star dishes have matured with each entry. Two men wrestle with their place in our vast universe while imagining Alexander The Great as Don Corleone through Marlon Brando’s resurrection. Superfluous at mere mention, but far more indebted to each “character’s” journey as fate alters the duo’s inner-programming on life’s grandest stage. One final hurrah that’s less about escapism, and far more about the final destination.
On the road again, representing the Observer, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon chart course for Greece with the mission of retracing Odysseus’ footsteps. They reunite for a handful of days soaking-in Coogan’s literary appreciations and Brydon’s singing of karaoke-favorite Grease tracks. Tasty morsels bring the men together, but their yearning for those left behind becomes more evident with every scrumptious bite. Brydon frequently phones his children and wife Emma (Claire Keelan), while Coogan checks-in about his father’s ailing health. We see the tandem at their most distracted, and simultaneously most distracting, torn every-which-way by aged acceptances in an otherwise exotic coastal paradise.
At this leg of their dogged journey, Coogan and Brydon are far more honest about their insecurities. There’s extra somberness behind wry expressions of doubt or worry masked by humble British wit. Continual banter about Coogan’s BAFTA nomination for his “performance” as Stan Laurel in Stan & Ollie weighs the classification of being a “funnyman” versus respected actorial accolades bestowed upon those who’ve transcended mundane recognition. Coogan’s informational tourism tidbits paint a more “serious” picture versus Brydon’s desire to liven-up facts with another voicework gag, driven home by the black-and-white dreams that plague a Coogan who finds himself “living” his personal Odyssey. The Trip To Greece is more Coogan’s exploration than Brydon’s given his character’s more enunciated dramatic arc, although their shared comedic brain never disappoints.
It’s not a bad thing to witness grown men understand their place in the world. Coogan and Brydon offer a multitude of chances to laugh your buttocks clean off as DeNiro, Jagger, or Schwarzeneggar all “join” them for another divine helping of international delicacies. Comradery, compassion, derision, and playful antagonism define a relationship that’s cutthroat in the most sympathetic of ways. Coogan and Brydon’s roasts are scorching hot but never from a place of hatred. Mockery means to recalibrate egos, not crudely belittle. Their “fights” are over falsetto duels or status in the industry, never overdramatized into blowouts. Still, you can tell the characters are reaching an end to their “no-baggage” adventures. A family man who’s now fully invested in family time and the “happily” single career chaser forced to face mortality.
The satisfaction in Winterbottom’s justified dessert course is allowing Coogan and Brydon a determinative finale that still develops their on-screen personas by exposing new layers. It’s not a “get the band back together” vacation, more this culmination of hours crammed into cars, wasting time with the same James Bond accents, connecting via phone with wives and ex-lovers and children. Temptations of the female persuasion swap for debates over who could still pull off graphic t-shirts with logos; machismo and manliness called into question when (once tackleable) physical tasks become more daunting challenges. A worse The Trip To Greece would have seen Coogan and Brydon humorously devour their way through another lighthearted “trip.” Winterbottom assures further meaning as time teaches these longtime sophisticates valuable lessons that third-act separations honor. Narrative agency wins over throwaway reunions.
The Trip To Greece isn’t my favorite “Trip,” but it’s possibly the collection’s most impactful entry. Previous sequels have been front-to-back funnier, yet choice moments from Troy to Ithica allow for some of the rovers’ best work. Brydon, the patient father, the eternal romantic, enabled to mix his “Moneypenny” line readings with bedroom swoonery. Coogan, the lonesome professional, longing to be revered for his practiced craft, dealt a stunning blow that causes a screeching, self-adjusting halt. In the end, these companions end up miles apart from one another but exactly where they’re needed most. One last breathtaking “Trip” is one last chance to unlock the beauty in human experiences even when sobering clouds obstruct proverbial sunniness that will soon shine again.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Matt spends his after-work hours posting nonsense on the internet instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don’t feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged). Follow him on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd (@DoNatoBomb).