THE TRIP TO SPAIN
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Runtime: 111 mins.
Australian release date: 3 August 2017
Previewed at: Sony Pictures Theatrette, Sydney, on 18 July 2017.
Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip To Spain follows in the footsteps of its highly successful predecessors The Trip and The Trip To Italy. Once again Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon get together and head off on a journey that’s both hilarious and fraught with angst. The couple find themselves in the most fabulous locations enjoying the best culinary delights that Spain has to offer and yet, somehow, they manage not to enjoy themselves - well, not entirely.
The purpose of the trip? Coogan has been commissioned to write some restaurant reviews for a newspaper and also has plans to write a book about his travel experiences and Brydon is happy to tag along. From the first phone-call setting up their journey, you sense that Coogan, coming off the back of the success of Philomena, is on an ego high, while Brydon is happy to take off again, if only to have some respite from his surroundings at home - a wife, a daughter and a new baby. Coogan is also planning to join up with his son for a bonding trip when the two men complete their journey. The pair takes a kind of merciless pleasure in each other’s company and obviously enjoys riffing on their various accents and impressions. Many you’ll have heard before but they’re still brilliant and if this kind of humour is your thing, you won’t be disappointed as the two amigos impersonate old favourites Michael Caine, Mick Jagger, Sean Connery, Marlon Brando and Roger Moore. And they’ve added a fabulous David Bowie to the repertoire.
As they travel and dine through the stunning Spanish countryside from the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean coast through Cantabria, the Basque region, Aragon, Rioja, Castile La Mancha (where they dress up as Don Quixote and Pancho Sanza for a publicity shoot) and Andalucia, the frenemies verbally spar and antagonize one another, and Brydon makes great sport of cannily manipulating Coogan’s ego. After all, Coogan is now an Oscar nominee! Even a couple of days spent with their colleagues Yolanda (Marta Barrio) and Emma (Claire Keelan) doesn’t offer any respite from the growing tension, but it does provide a platform for Brydon to release a stream of ‘Roger Moore consciousness’ which is mind-boggling.
The clever thing amidst all the laughter is that here is a portrait of two 50-something men going through a mid-life crisis, each sort of envying the situation of the other. Coogan’s wanting to settle down while Brydon’s wondering if he’s in a rut. Their characters are thinly veiled alter egos of their real life selves and it’s bold of them to expose themselves in this way, particularly as the ‘script’ is largely improvised. The Trip To Spain provides almost two hours of merriment even if there’s a feeling of ‘been there, done that’ to some of it. It’s still a great tonic for anyone who wants to just enter the minds of two off-the-wall characters who have the ability to bring tears to your eyes while simultaneously making you cringe. It also has a really bizarre, unsettling ending that’s been criticised by many but I found intriguing. I’m looking forward to The Trip To Morocco.