Sardonic flippancy in The Trip to Italy | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

Sardonic flippancy in The Trip to Italy 

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan lampoon themselves in The Trip to Italy

Photo courtesy IFC Films

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan lampoon themselves in The Trip to Italy

One sly moment in THE TRIP TO ITALY takes place in a trattoria in Monforte d'Alba, the first stop for UK celebrities Steve (Coogan) and Rob (Brydon) on their jaunt across Italy. As in 2010's The Trip, where the comedy duo embarked on a restaurant tour of Northern England, the excursion is subsidized by The Observer for a writing assignment.

Over Guinea Fowl and homemade pasta, they weigh their travel reprise against the general quality of movie sequels. The Godfather Part II is inevitably cited as one of the few that equals its predecessor. This prompts Brydon to launch into an impression of Al Pacino, quoting a famous line from The Godfather Part III. Nobody mentions the incongruity.

The unspoken joke is that this is actually Coogan and Brydon's third collaboration with director Michael Winterbottom where they play thinly veiled versions of themselves. In 2005's Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, the dueling "co-leads" bickered their way through making the film-within-the-film. In The Trip, Coogan was the star actor carousing his way through personal and professional despondency, Brydon the content husband and father.

The Trip to Italy brings changes in setting, cuisine and perspective. Coogan remains alternately morose and witty, but he has sworn off alcohol—no small sacrifice with Italian dining—and spends his downtime reading Lord Byron in bed and trying to Skype with his (fictional) teenage son. Meanwhile, the still-married Brydon fuels his notorious mimicry with drink, once to woo a young English expat off the beach and into bed.

As Coogan mulls over moving back to England, Brydon and his agent are trying to land a role as a Mafia accountant in a Michael Mann movie. When Brydon gets the part, the pensive reactions of both actors are telling. Brydon is pleased with the achievement but seems apprehensive over the change it portends. Meanwhile, Coogan quietly envies Brydon's burgeoning success—or does he worry for the path his friend is following?

As Coogan and Brydon celebrate life, a sense of encroaching mortality hovers over their travelogue, which traces the footsteps—literally and spiritually—of Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley during the early 1800s. Coogan and Brydon wind up at the catacombs of Rome and the ruins of Pompeii, the same place the struggling spouses visit in Rossellini's Journey to Italy. As Brydon lends muted voice to the encased remains of a Vesuvius victim, Coogan just walks away, momentarily dumbstruck by the futility of existence.

For all of the gastronomy, stunning scenery and plaintive overtones in The Trip to Italy, the constant sardonic riffing between its two leads is at first its strongest and eventually its weakest element. The two friends debate the efficacy of eating Mo Farah's legs if stranded atop the Andes and the pros and cons of Jude Law playing Coogan in his biopic. Dueling impressions of a young Michael Caine segue into ones of a weepy Caine in The Dark Knight Rises.

A rented Mini Cooper cues up references to The Italian Job. Avril Lavigne is labeled "a young person's Alanis Morissette" and then Jagged Little Pill is cranked as the pronunciation of "Alanis" is debated. While sailing in the Gulf of Spezia, where Shelley drowned, Brydon launches into an obscure but humorous imitation of Anthony Hopkins' William Bligh in The Bounty.

And so goes this mostly sumptuous Brit-wit feast. But by the umpteenth time that Brydon gorges the audience on Pacino, Hugh Grant or Robert DeNiro, the shtick goes stale. What starts as a comedians' vehicle stalls out, but Winterbottom still manages to guide this trip to its poignant destination.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Mammal trammels."

  • Follow Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon on their jaunt across Italy

Film Details

The Trip to Italy
Rated NR · 107 min. · 2014
Official Site:
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Writer: Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan and Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon and Rosie Fellner


Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for The Trip to Italy


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review

Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

The lobster is arbitrarily asinine, disjointed, and gratuitously violent towards both humans and former humans that "didn't make it." If …

by Marco_Polo on The Lobster Surreally Skewers Society’s Fear of Single People (Film Review)

The only peeople who murdered those boys were let off by an inexperienced prosecutor and hoodwinked judge. The facts are …

by Greg 1 on The West Memphis Three are free ... what about the real killer? (Film Review)

"Miles Ahead"... "opening Friday".... where? I'm having a tough time finding film times/locations on now. The …

by Tbone on Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis Film, Miles Ahead, Isn’t a Real Biopic—It’s Something Better (Film Review)

Actually, many evangelicals and other Christians would not agree with the notion that "if you are a true believer you …

by bsquizzato on Film Review: Christian Movie Miracles From Heaven Goes Where Secular Hollywood Won't (Film Review)


The lobster is arbitrarily asinine, disjointed, and gratuitously violent towards both humans and former humans that "didn't make it." If …

by Marco_Polo on The Lobster Surreally Skewers Society’s Fear of Single People (Film Review)

Most Read

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation