Two days before Hurricane Harvey landed in Houston, we were invited to a media preview for the new film, The Trip to Spain. As with The Trip to Italy (2014) and, just, The Trip (2011), the latest installment of this film franchise from director Michael Winterbottom pairs Steve Coogan (you’ll also remember him from Philomena with Judi Dench) and Rob Brydon as they set out on a foodie road trip.
The guys play themselves traveling by car around Spain from Santander in the north to Malaga in the south. But although they play themselves, their lives and families are fictionalized, and so is the reason for the trip. They are supposed to be writing a series of restaurant reviews for a UK newspaper and working on a book. It’s a tossed salad of reality and fantasy, à la Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
What might have been just another food-porn film turns out to be something else entirely. Yes, there is some luscious and drool-worthy footage of Spanish seafood, wine and chefs at work in the kitchen. But in the end, the food part of the movie becomes almost incidental as The Trip to Spain ends up being more a wide-ranging discussion of aging, life and love lost.
Sounds boring, right? It’s anything but, assuming that you enjoy witty and lightning-fast repartee. Both actors are gifted comics and impersonators. So imagine a slap-down between two guys doing Roger Moore at various points in his career. Or a deadpan conversation rendered as Michael Caine or David Bowie or Barry Gibb or Picasso or a James Bond villain or Lennon bickering with McCartney. Or Brydon doing Mick Jagger doing Michael Caine. It’s kind of dizzying.
The film is not scripted as such, so these riffs can become chaotic and pop up anywhere. I sometimes had the feeling of just barely holding on by my fingernails to keep up with the dialog and the mess of cultural and historical references. Imagine Louis Malle’s My Dinner With Andre as a vastly sped-up and much funnier moveable feast.
As noted above, the food and wine of the film are merely props for a wide-ranging discourse on love found and lost, career, family and the march of time. Both men are middle-aged, and there’s a bittersweet taste to the film. In fact, the ending takes quite a dark and menacing turn, and I was left wondering what it means. I won’t spoil it for you here except to note it depicted a pretty scary scenario.
With all the anxiety of the past two weeks and another hurricane headed toward the US, you might be in the mood for a jolly diversion. This is a good one for when you wish to clear your head, have some good laughs and listen in on clever conversation.
The Trip to Spain is currently playing at the River Oaks Theatre in Houston.