Back in 2010, the Brit miniseries The Trip—in which comics Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan bantered, one-upped each other and did killer celebrity impressions while dining like lords at restaurants in knockout Yorkshire locales—got edited into an uproarious hit feature film. That was just starters. Course two was The Trip to Italy, more of the same with a sunnier setting, and now we have The Trip to Spain, still more of the mouth-watering same but with an increasingly somber, melancholy flavor and older-but-not-wiser bouquet creeping in.
Once again directed by Michael Winterbottom and shot by James Clarke on gorgeously sun-dappled Spanish ports, hilltops and former castles, The Trip to Spain is a portrait of two frenemies cracking wise over fine wine and haute cuisine, taking aim at everything from family to fame, from (randy, unbridled) sex to aging. There’s the whiff of a plot: Coogan claims he is working on a book inspired by As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee. But, really, the pleasure of their flinty company is the lure here. It’s a fine bromance, a cranky love story under their constant bickering and funny/sad pissing contests.
Playing the slightest variations on themselves, Brydon is a caustic but oddly mellow guy with a wife and kid, his career always on the brink of the ascendant, and the more apparently neurotic Coogan, after acclaim and awards with his film Philomena co-starring Judi Dench, grates with frustration that he isn’t even more successful, let alone younger and attached to the hot woman of his dreams. Even Coogan’s agent seems to be drifting away, casually telling him that the new movie project he’s been dying to make is on but the studio is bringing in an “up-and-coming” new writer. Grouses Coogan, “I’ve already up-and-come!”
Even with the middle-age angst bubbling to the surface, the joys here are plentiful. There’s Coogan bravely rhapsodizing, even when we see he’s knee deep in existential crises, that “50 is a sweet spot.” Or how about when the two men drive along toward the coast raising their voices on “The Windmills of Your Mind” from the stylish Steve McQueen–Faye Dunaway 1960s caper The Thomas Crown Affair? There’s an epic showdown over which of the two does the definitive Roger Moore and Mick Jagger impressions and, of course, their longtime Michael Caine obsession (“She was only 15 years old!”) surfaces just when you hope it will. The improbable movie—how does this series even exist, after all?—is a blast of quiet anarchy, and Coogan and Brydon are so perfectly suited to each other that they ought to be cast in the contemporary equivalent of a Bob Hope–Bing Crosby road movie adventure.
The odd finale hints that, next trip, things could get very contemporary for the two of them—even political and violent. Unless or until that happens, The Trip to Spain hits the spot very nicely, thanks.
Read more of Stephen Rebello’s movie reviews here.