Movie Review: The Trip to Greece
The Trip to Greece is the fourth such outing by comedian/actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Just as in the first three editions, Coogan and Brydon are playing fictionalized versions of themselves on a cross country tour of hotels and restaurants for The Observer, a paper in London. In this trip to Greece, they actually start in Turkey in order to take the route Odysseus makes in the Odyssey from Troy to Ithaca. There's a lot of food, a lot of laughs and a bit of drama along the way. It stars Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Claire Keelan, Rebecca Johnson, Marta Barrio, Tim Leach, Cordelia Bugeja, and Kareem Alkabbani. The film is directed by Michael Winterbottom and the dialogue is improvised by the actors. It is available for rental on Video on Demand (VOD) platforms.
There is little difference between the three proceeding films and The Trip to Greece. Though, I was a little disappointed, and other Trip aficionados will agree it is disappointing, that there was no competing Michael Caine impression bit in this edition of The Trip. Sorry to spoil that for you, but there are still loads of other incredible impersonations to be had. So, why write about a film that's got three virtual copies before it? Why pain you with the details? Because it's a comfort film. It's two frenemies acting as if this is what life is still like. It's an escape and a decadent one at that.
I love process. I love to see how things come together and to watch the intermittent work of chefs in the kitchen is just divine. The food eaten in these films is absolutely mouth watering and for The Trip to Greece it's no different. They have lush salad, lamb chops seared to perfection, seafood, citrus, chocolate, it's all so incredible looking. I love watching the staff work as they plate each meal and as the fire leaps up out of the pans. It's so gorgeous I could probably be happy just watching an entire cut from The Trip franchise of just meal prep. Yet, then I'd miss the other beauty to behold.
Throughout the series, but especially here in The Trip to Greece, the scenery is breathtaking. They stay away from the ultra tourist spots and the places that might be otherwise crowded. They take us on journeys without parallel through human history, joking along the way of course, but the view is never dampened by an errant pun or a riff that breaks out between our heroes. It's still the majesty of the natural and human aspects of the world. Just a lot of stunning photography captured by Michael Winterbottom and his cinematographer James Clarke. They also find the most interesting candids of people in the midst of life. I would also love a cut of the views from The Trip with only the score, the scenery, and the people. Yet, I'd miss the character through line.
Yes, The Trip to Greece is off the cuff and improvised by Coogan and Brydon, but each film in the series has a through line for Coogan and they often involve his existential dread. If The Trip films are anything, they're a way for fictionalized Coogan to rationalize his life and wonder about what it all means. There's real beauty in the scenes of Coogan's introspection. You would think they wouldn't be, but these scenes of contemplating mortality or dealing with relational drama are completely earned. Yes, in this riff fest of an improvised comedy, every dramatic note is absolutely fitting. It's very beautiful to watch and The Trip to Greece's emotional moments hit because they're about Coogan's father's illness and his relation to his father. It's really beautiful to watch.
Yet, amongst the beauty and comfort, there is a group of scenes that make me cringe a little. Coogan and Brydon have stepped off the ferry and are getting into their borrowed car and Coogan's approached by a local actor, Kareem, who was in one of Coogan's films from less than a year previous. He's an aide worker at a refugee camp nearby and Coogan and Brydon offer him a lift to the camp. We don't go in with Kareem or see anything about the inside of the camp, but this snippet is there to remind us that the decadence and beauty we're about to witness has in its background this specter of the continuing refugee crisis from Syria. The moment is entirely heavy handed and a strange attachment to this film. It needs to be addressed, of course, but it seemed so out of place to address it in this particular film.
The constant riffing is a waveform for me. I love it, I'm bored with it, I love it again and so on. Yet, I'm drawn to The Trip to Greece and what came before. It's hilarious, beautiful, mouthwatering, and heart wrenching. I recommend you take the plunge into this one, but seek out the first three as well (The Trip, The Trip to Italy, The Trip to Spain) because they are just as good and the food and scenery is just as decadent.