“The Trip to Italy” (2014): A Justified Second Helping (Review)

Film, in general, is comprised totally of human efforts, including all our emotions and imperfections. Whether it be physically on screen or behind it functioning the technological aspects through production, development, and completion, in addition to deciphering what each operating facets outcome is intended to or could possibly be. So at times, I tend to struggle with the idea of solely explaining a film through review. The reason being that a films performance, and the repercussions of such whether it be a positive, neutral, or negative emotional and/or physical response, varies from person to person and transcends mere opinionated dissection, even the intentions and efforts of its creators more often than not. Sometimes a film simply resonates on an individual by individual basis instead of general consensus…a depth and meaning that can’t be described, transferred, or replicated by any means. Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip to Italy” provokes this humanity and evokes this reaction in me wholly. Nevertheless, I will do my utmost to relay the film’s incomparability.

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Perhaps what is most alluring and stupefying about Winterbottom’s “The Trip” series is the sheer uniqueness and improvisational nature of its composition. The unfathomable precision director and writer Michael Winterbottom is able to extract and capture from the film’s simple, yet enticing premise and heavily improvised dialogue is mind-boggling and seemingly self-contradictory. Quite frequently you’ll find yourself flabbergasted that “The Trip to Italy” went through production with a mere outline of intentions rather than a concrete script. The extemporization of each characters interaction with one another, whether it be verbal or physical, is enough to leave you astounded. And despite the fact “The Trip to Italy” spawned through chaos and intuition more so than order and conventional means of film-making, intentionally I might add, it’s fluidity and formidability will scream the contrary.

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Another massive element to Winterbottom’s “The Trip” series is its constant references to and conversations regarding food, art, music, literature, etc… If you’re familiar with the series, you’ll know precisely what I’m talking about. Now, at the best of times these contextual, self-referential, and visuals, mentions and allusions are intellectually intimidating, possibly even borderline pretentious. Conversely however, considering that “The Trip to Italy’s” very knowledgeable and intellect is frequently the basis for hilarity and quite often viscerally revealing character-wise. It rapidly becomes apparent that these references are imperative to the film’s themes and comedic effectiveness, in addition to the development of its characters self-conscious egotism and simultaneous struggles with mortality. While I’m not irrefutably sure whether leads Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon bring this puzzle piece all their own or if Winterbottom gives them homework that they’re to work into their back-and-forths, either way, it’s hugely impressive.

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There’s no question that for a majority of its run time, “The Trip to Italy” is driven solely by the chemistry and charisma of its two leads, making Winterbottom somewhat of an aftertaste…by no means am I implying this as a negative criticism. While he certainly gets lost in the chaos of good-nature ribbing, sightseeing, and personal dilemmas, Winterbottom’s definitely a significant, potent piece. Aside from the obviousness of his stellar camera work, whether it be capturing the scenery of Italy’s immense, yet subtle, engulfing beauty or his characters hilarious, persistently heartbreaking dysfunction. Winterbottom exudes the honest, patient, and sympathetic eye needed for viewers to truly understand and experience the film from behind the camera as well as on paper, in whatever form and length in which he created the original screenplay.

The Trip to Italy:

As I mentioned previously, “The Trip to Italy,” much like it’s predecessor, is very performance-driven. So much so in fact, that its success almost entirely hangs on the investment and theatrics of its two leads, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Not surprisingly, both deliver impeccably once again. In this sequel, we realize our two main characters haven’t been allowed much room to grow since we last met, and rightfully so. Both Coogan and Brydon are well into their forties, they have and will continue to make conscientious, informed decisions about who they are. And honestly, the choices they make are all the more effective and prone to our empathy when their maturity and wisdom is taken into account. We don’t do much changing in old age, we’re confident about how we chose to live and what we want, and “The Trip to Italy” reflects this truth satisfyingly. Coogan and Brydon understand the significance and insignificance of their characters and radiate sheer brilliance.

You’ll get much of the same second time round. Melancholic, hilarious, and utterly beautiful. “The Trip to Italy” delivers plenty of laughs, stunning panoramas, and a disheartening, yet fulfilling reality. Take your time with this one, really absorb the atmosphere and honesty of its characters. The trio of Winterbottom, Coogan, and Brydon capture life unlike any other.

Overall: 9.5/10

The Good: Incomparable charisma and chemistry from Brydon and Coogan
The Bad: Coogan and Brydon’s inability to fulfill monogamy
The Ugly: Rob Brydon’s Christian Bale impression (although hilariously idiotic)

Written By Joseph Falcone


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  • fernandorafael_c2c

    Great review, Joe! Glad to see your work on the CK. I’ll definitely add this film and its predecessor to my watchlist.

  • Michael Boyd

    Nice one Joe! I could just watch Brydon’s hilarious impressions all day

  • Joseph

    Thanks Mike! Same here, although Brydon’s Bale impression is a little off, but comical nonetheless!

  • Joseph

    Thank you, Fernando! Definitely give both a watch, incomparably brilliant!

  • Great review Joseph! Haven’t heard much about this nor Winterbottom’s previous installment but will be sure to check both out given your high praise indeed.

    Adam.

  • Alan Harten

    Had no interest in this, do not much care for Rob Brydon and I only like Coogan for 24 Hour Party People, but you are certainly giving this a lot of praise so will give it a try

  • Vic’s Movie Den

    Amazing review, Joe. Definitely on my to watch list, now. Like always, great work, man!

  • Joseph

    Thank you very much, Adam! Winterbottom and his work I highly recommend, “The Trip” series in particular. That being said, it really is an acquired comedic taste, so be patient!

  • Joseph

    Well, if you’re not a fan of Brydon or Coogan, my only hope is that this wonderful series of films can turn your opinion around!

  • Joseph

    Thanks, Vic! Happy to see you made it over here for the review! Definitely give it a go, it’s predecessor as well, if you can.

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