This time last year my mother and I took a trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast. We lingered in Rome’s piazzas, eating gelato and recounting familiar locations from such films as Roman Holiday, and Fredrico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Then we traveled south by train through Naples to Pompeii, Sorento and the Island of Capri. So when The Trip to Italy came to our local independent theater (a few months later than in major cities) I couldn’t pass up the chance to revisit the Mediterranean and the capital of the Roman Empire, but this time with the British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.
Coogan and Brydon, play themselves in the sequel to 2011’s The Trip. The two friends are on an assignment for the Observer to travel through Italy, stay in lavish suites, taste Italy’s finest cuisine and document their culinary experiences, even though they admit to knowing nothing about food—and rarely talk about it. The two friends are avid impersonators, Brydon especially. He speaks as Hugh Grant, Christian Bale and Marlon Brando voices more often than his own Welsh brogue. Brydon is auditioning for a role in an American thriller, so his incessant impersonations are also a benefit to the character in what is to be his first American film.
The friends’ discourse has a playful competitive banter to it– a one-upmanship that The New York Times’ David Denby calls “self-aggrandizement and self-promoting bluster.” Their repertoire of impersonations is comparable to Robin Williams and their references to Romantic poets Shelley, Byron, and Keats color the film with a developed cultural complexion. They make allusions to Rossellini’s Viaggio in Italia, and Shelley’s funeral pyre on the Gulf of La Spezia, while also jamming out to Alanis Morissette in their mini-cooper.
My favorite moments of the film were during breaks in the dialogue, and images of Italy took over. These sequences are colored with lovely shots of chefs slicing prosciutto and dressing wild game, images of the Mt. Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast from a sailboat and views from atop the Island of Capri. You leave the cast on the island, wondering if they will make a timely return to their lives off mainland Europe or if they will prolong the trip. Brydon has made a calamitous marital mistake while on vacation, one which he doesn’t seem too worried about, but makes him reconsider going back to his tired wife and busy three-year-old. Coogan had his teenage son flown in from L.A. and they’re bonding together as father and son while swimming together in the Mediterranean. But vacations, and impersonations for that matter, can’t last forever. Trips seem to be over before we have the time to realize where we really are. Then it’s time to go back hum drum of everyday, but in the movies we can linger with the picture of a warm Italian sun setting on the coastal mountains and steep-set fishing towns, ladies sipping limoncello and servers bringing out dishes of coniglio arrosto and polpo alls griglia.