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Sunday, August 3, 2014

THE TRIP TO ITALY Review: Rooftop Films Summer Series

Rob Brydon (left) and Steve Coogan (right) in THE TRIP TO ITALY
Photo courtesy of IFC Films
2014, 107 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

This film was shown through the Rooftop Films Summer Series.  For $13 (occasionally a little more) you can see an advance screening of a film hot off the festival circuit, usually with a Q&A, and with live music and an after party on a rooftop in one of NYC's five boroughs.  No one asked me to write this - I simply think that these events are stellar.  

Discussion topics in Michael Winterbottom's The Trip to Italy range from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly to the pronunciation of Alanis Morissette's name, and Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan's impressions range from Marlon Brando to a person covered in ash at Pompeii (and of course an updated The Dark Knight Rises version of Michael Caine).  For 107 minutes, we are treated to listening to Brydon and Coogan's improvised dinner and road conversations.  While this may sound like a slog, it is far from it, as Brydon and Coogan's conversation topics are so consistently relatable and flat-out bizarre that they easily carry the movie.

Watching The Trip to Italy is like joining a few (ridiculously funny) friends for a road trip.  Brydon, Coogan, and Winterbottom have worked together on a number of films, so as a result, this movie moves with remarkable ease.  Brydon and Coogan naturally have amazing chemistry, which makes their conversations very engaging.

The highlight of this movie is, of course, the Michael Caine impressions.  While I haven't seen the first film in its entirety, I've of course seen the now-famous Michael Caine impressions.  I won't say too much about this film's impressions, but they're pee-your-pants funny.

What's most admirable about this Trip, though, is the pathos.  While this film is through-and-through a comedy, there is a dose of pathos that's impossible to ignore, as it adds another unexpected layer to the film.  Coogan and Brydon explore marital infidelity and the cost of aging...but not without a healthy dose of humor.  The ending of the film is unexpected and poignant, giving the film a bittersweet touch that works quite well.

Overall, The Trip to Italy is a piece of entertainment that mixes laughs, food porn, and pathos to great effect.  While it is a bit too long, the length rarely detracts, since the laughs begin again as soon as a slow spot is reached.  If you love Coogan and Brydon, this is a must-see.  If you love Richard Linklater's Before Trilogy, this is a must-see.  I enjoyed myself immensely.


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