Monday, June 13, 2011

THE TRIP (and spike jonze's new short film)

After the AWFUL 'Your Highness' and non-stop reports of how bad 'Hangover 2' is (no i haven't seen it yet), it looks like movie audiences can finally laugh in 2011 thanks to stuff like 'Bridesmaids' (which coulda used some Amy Sedaris, but i wont harp on that too much, because it was a pleasant surprise) and the movie of discussion: Michael Winterbottom's 'The Trip'. I wouldn't say something over the top like; "Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are the epitome of today's English comedy" (like this one review i read), but at the same time they do represent my favorite aspects of English comedy: The improvised (almost) non-stop rambling that somehow seems to work when they do it, the way they bounce off of one another with quick-witted one liners, the dry deadpan delivery, etc. I often wonder how we (Americans) got Hugh Grant instead of Steve Coogan, who has recently been showing up in more American films over the years (Jim Jarmusch's 'Coffee & Cigarettes', 'Hamelt 2' and 'Tropic Thunder'), but for some reason, his true talent has yet to be shown in American-based films. He seems to shine more in UK films. And I'm sorry, but that whole "you need to be English to get that kind of comedy", which i hear ever so often, is bullshit. Coogan is hilarious, plain and simple.
For the third time now, actors Coogan and Brydon have teamed up with director Michael Winterbottom for another natural, almost documentary-style fiction film where Coogan & Brydon play themselves on a road trip reviewing 5 star English restaurants for a piece in the observer magazine. Along the way, the 2 real life friends amuse each other by doing impressions (Michael Caine, Al Pacino, Sean Connery, Woody Allen and more) and making fun of each other non stop. It reminded me of so many other films (both comedic and dramatic) that i love so much. Aside from Winterbottom's signature "cinema verite" style, 'The Trip' is also similar to 2009's English comedy 'In The Loop' (which Coogan has an extended cameo in). Of the 3 films Coogan, Brydon and Winterbottom have done together, this would rank 2nd behind '24 hour party people' ,which i consider to be one of the best films of the last decade.
'The Trip' is a great example of a movie with a great trailer (which you'll see below), that makes you really wanna see the film, yet doesn't blow or spoil all the best parts in the 2 minute trailer, like many comedies tend to do. Also, you wouldn't get this from watching the trailer, but 'The Trip' has its share of somewhat serious, touching and introspective moments (mostly courtesy of Steve Coogan). Part of the 'The Trip' has to do with Coogan worrying about the direction his career is headed, and how he really wants to act in more movies and stop doing so many television series. He's concerned that because of his age (mid 40's), his stock as a marketable name in Hollywood is going down, and he's doomed to do comedies and TV series for the rest of his life. In addition to that, he's trying to patch up his current relationship with his girlfriend and be there for his kids as much as possible, even though he isn't around as much as he'd like to be. But he still cant seem to put his bad habits behind him, and even though he wants to patch things up with his girlfriend, slow down and act his age, he manages to cheat on her twice in less than a week, and is still doing lines of cocaine. On the other hand, Rob Brydon is content with his career and is happily married with a newborn baby. The film often does a comparison between the lives of Coogan and Brydon, with a surprisingly (and somewhat) sad ending where we see Brydon happy at home, reunited with his family after the long trip, whereas Coogan is alone and kinda somber in his apartment.
Their overall commentary on the overpriced/"artsy" food, themselves, celebrities, etc is absolutely hilarious. I mentioned this earlier, but the 2 lead actors (who often work together) are so great at playing off of one another. My favorite scene in 'The Trip' is the part where Coogan and Brydon act out how they would have delivered a specific line in a James Bond film, had they got the role as the villain. The 2 comedian/actors are friends, but at times, they come off as rivals competing with one another. And even though the film is technically fiction, we do get some real life info about how Coogan was almost picked for the Peter Sellers role that eventually went to Geoffry Rush, and how Rob Brydon had a part in that same biopic where he played Dustin Hoffman, which ended up on the cutting room floor. I'm sure there was a traditional script for this film, but a good chunk of  it had to be improvised. Normally with imporv, when you ramble on, you hit a dead end and the bit stops being funny, but when Coogan and Brydon ramble and talk non-stop, that never really seems to happen. There's barely any dead space or silence between the 2. Even simple little one-liners they say to each other keep the comedy moving.
Anyone who's a fan of  road movies like; 'Roadside Prophets' & 'Easy Rider' or natural/realistic comedies like; 'The Office' (either versions), 'In The Loop' or 'Tristram Shandy' & '24 Hour Party People' will LOVE this.

As an added bonus before 'The Trip', IFC screened Spike Jonze's new animated short 'To Die By Your Side', which shows Jonze's continued interest in animation and special effects like his last 2 films (where the wild things are and I'm here). The short story takes place in a book store after hours, in which the characters on the book covers come to life and fall in love. In this particular case, the skeleton of Macbeth falls in love with Dracula's girlfriend Mina (who promises him a blowjob). Before Macbeth can make it over to Mina, his head falls off, he loses his balance, falls off the shelf and is swallowed by Moby Dick. Mina eventually saves him, but accidentally stabs herself when she goes in to kiss Macbeth who has a knife sticking out of his body. She dies, turns in to a skeleton like Macbeth and the 2 live happily ever after (there's a funny scene in the end, that's kinda similar to the sex scene in 'Team America: World Police', where the 2 main characters go through very sexual position possible, and eventually have a child together).

In addition to 'The Trip', i highly recommend checking out '24 Hour Party People' if you haven't. It may seem chaotic at first, but after a few minutes you'll see that there is quite a bit of structure in this film about a very important musical period in Manchester's history involving Joy Division, New Order, Vini Reilly, The Happy Mondays and even a quick mention of The Smiths in the end. There's great performances, especially by the actor who plays Ian Curtis, and Andy Serkis who plays Martin Hannett. And just like 'The Trip', there are plenty of funny scenes between Brydon and Coogan.


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