The Trip To Italy, Michael Winterbottom's funny, self-aware sequel to his 2010 pseudo-documentary The Trip, reunites Steve Coogan with Rob Brydon for a second comic-gastronomic romp through a different idyllic historic countryside. Like its predecessor, The Trip To Italy is a two-man improv olympiad interrupted by fine wine, haute cuisine, and intimations of mortality. It's also a good-natured celebration of upper-class white male privilege that's far less obnoxious than it sounds.
This time, Brydon is the guy in charge of the story. As the guy commissioned to write a food and culture piece for the London Observer, he asks Coogan to accompany him; last time it was the other way around. And it's Brydon, not Coogan, who has a fling with a comely lassie in the hospitality industry.
Unlike Coogan, though, Brydon has a conscience. His infidelity gnaws at him. He's got a wife and kid back home to worry about; Coogan's affairs were habitual and emotionally indistinct, but his family had already fallen apart by then. Moreover, Coogan is at a different place in the sequel. Most nights, he prefers to return to his hotel suite, listen to Leonard Cohen songs on his computer, and fall asleep while reading Lord Byron's poetry.
These two men's breakfasts, lunches, and dinners together are the heart of the film. Most of the time Winterbottom's camera lingers like an eavesdropping guest at the next table while his two quick-witted leads eat and talk. Their table manners tell you a thing or two: Coogan approaches his pasta daintily and skeptically, lifting his bites as though he might discover crucial DNA evidence in an unsolved murder case under a square of ravioli. Brydon tends to twirl his pasta absently and obsessively before shoveling it in during one of his many Al Pacino impersonations.
Their conversations are a high-low combination platter of private, personal ruminations and exhibitionistic public proclamations garnished with literary quotations and celebrity impressions.
If you saw The Trip and enjoyed it, then you'll enjoy The Trip To Italy, too. But it is not for all markets; at the screening I attended, four people left early.
The Trip to Italy
Opens Friday, September 12th
Ridgeway Cinema Grill