The Trip to Greece, 2020.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom.
Starring Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Kareem Alkabbani, Marta Barrio, Cordelia Bugeja, Richard Clews, Justin Edwards, Rebecca Johnson, Claire Keelan, Timothy Leach, Harry Tayler, and Tessa Walker.
Actors Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan travel from Troy to Ithaca following in the footsteps of Odysseus.
There’s not a better time for another entry in this half fiction/half documentary travelogue series starring comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon portraying fabricated variations of themselves, this time chronicling Odysseus’s journey from Troy to Ithica in The Trip to Greece. Not because the movie is dropping on multiple on-demand services as summer approaches, but because touring with these two lovable goofballs might be the closest anyone gets to vacation during the current health crisis. Fortunately, it’s also time well spent.
Although the sightseeing and delicious cuisines (once again with documentary-style cutaways to the kitchen as the food is prepared) are packaged with conversations musing on their individual lives, there’s never a sensation that one can’t jump right into the series. I did so with The Trip to Spain a few years ago, had an enjoyable time, but never would have guessed the following installment would be exactly kind of cinematic comfort food a world on lockdown could and should get lost in right now.
It’s also appreciated that the dialogues feel deeper this time around, namely juxtaposing the revered status of Greek legends that have a history of reprehensible crimes, with the current nasty leadership from world leaders such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. It certainly calls into question what is being idolized and for what. Some serious segments are laced with humor, such as a bit involving comedy and tragedy masks that analyzes the trajectory of Steve Coogan’s career into more dramatic work. As a result, there is much talk about his recent work portraying Stan Laurel in Stan & Ollie, including a cheeky response to a review from a large publication.
Of course, The Trip to Greece is also a lighthearted affair that continues to stick with what works; passionate discussions of cinema, amusing impressions of iconic actors, beautiful vistas and backdrops (especially during restaurant dinner time talks), taking in major landmarks, badly singing songs, and generally just joking around with one another as any two good friends would trekking together. Numerous locations (ranging from Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the Ancient Agora of Athens, the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, the unique island of Hydra, the Caves of Diros, Nestor’s Palace, Niokastro Fortress in Pylos, and Ancient Stagira) are given ample time to make an impression just as much as whatever the buddies happen to be rambling about the background. Specifically, the Caves of Diros is a more quiet segment allowing viewers to really take in the beauty of the experience.
There are also a few melodramatic touches, involving the occasional phone call from Steve Coogan’s fictional son about a sickness in the family that progressively gets worse as the week-long vacation goes on. Without spoiling much, it leads to a conclusion that is both predictable and surprising but most importantly, genuinely emotional (with beautiful usage of Max Richter’s On the Nature of Daylight). A great deal of these movies focus on a wide variety of philosophical discussions, so if The Trip to Greece really is the final outing for the series, it’s a fitting ending searching for the ever-elusive meaning of life. Personally, I hope Steve Coogan one day wins an Oscar and director Michael Winterbottom (who coincidentally has already worked with the actor on one partly Roman-themed film this year already, Greed) decides to do another one of these so instead of gloating about winning 7 BAFTAs, he can talk about his Academy Award.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com