Tribeca 2017: In ‘The Trip to Spain,’ Middle Age Is a Comedic Journey
Apr 26, 2017
What do you get when you reunite two English comedians who have a penchant for fine dining, insults and near-perfect impressions? For the third time, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play themselves as they travel through Spain, taste various delicacies, discuss their middle age and constantly impersonate Mick Jagger in “The Trip to Spain.” Along with director Michael Winterbottom, who previously directed Coogan and Brydon in the TV series “The Trip” (2010-2014) and “The Trip to Italy” (2014), the pair demonstrates that aging only provides more ground for comedy.
The film is less of a narrative and more of a journey — a journey of two men who have just crossed the threshold into 50 and are enjoying all that the milestone offers. Still, there is a general plot arc — Brydon is tasked with penning restaurant reviews and Coogan is determined to write a novel inspired by Laurie Lee’s “As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning.” The film takes on a “Don Quixote” theme, proving appropriate for their voyage through Spain. Just like the Don himself, both men believe themselves to embody all of the hidalgo’s bombastic chivalry.
One of the most entertaining features of “The Trip to Spain” is the pair’s ever-lasting need to turn every situation into an opportunity for showing off their talents of imitation. From Mick Jagger to Marlon Brando, the two manage to capture everyone worth impersonating. This is brilliantly highlighted in a scene where Brydon takes his portrayal of Roger Moore too far. To irritate Coogan, who is discussing the Moors — a historic sect of North African Muslims — he persists incessantly in his notably accurate Moore voice for several minutes, and the situation only swells in hilarity.
Not shockingly, much of the dialogue between Coogan and Brydon is improvised. As two successful improvisational comedians, it seems that the naturally rigid structure of a screenplay would have prevented them from having complete autonomy over their own words. The film gives off the impression that Coogan and Brydon are left to their devices, like kids home alone for the first time, and are free to fire any unfiltered jabs at each other that might enter their minds.
Perhaps the film’s finest asset is its own criticism of the leading men — specifically Coogan. In 2014, Coogan was nominated for two Oscars for the film “Philomena,” and “The Trip to Spain” doesn’t shy away from addressing this. The backbone of many conversations between the leads rests in Coogan’s accomplishments which Brydon repeatedly drags down, frustrating Coogan who is trying to wade in his pool of success for as long as possible.
Considering “The Trip to Spain” doesn’t have a clear moral compass or a well-defined plot, it might struggle to attract an audience new to the series. Nevertheless, even those who aren’t familiar with this duo’s brilliantly acerbic chemistry could easily pick this up in the first few minutes of the film. In “The Trip to Spain,” the audience accompanies Coogan and Brydon on their spiritual and relaxing excursion through Spain, eating, drinking, laughing and basking in the warm Spanish sun.
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