Saving The Trip For TV

As enticing as The Trip To Italy looks, as I’m looking at the movie pages contemplating what’s worth leaving the house to go see, I relegate it to the “Wait For TV” list, and I say this as a recent and zealous convert.

I have little patience for foodies, and have already had more conversations about vinegar than I think a person should have in one lifetime. So when I heard the first one, The Trip (written by Michael Winterbottom), was about a food writer, I refused to let it hook me, no matter how many people told me it was funny. How funny could it be?

Well, a British guy stayed with us for a few days, and I let him loose on our Neflix account, and found myself watching a film called Alan Partridge. Steve Coogan! Now I had to see The Trip, and as soon as possible.

...but is it cinema?

…but is it cinema?

Coogan and Rob Brydon are like two Robin Williamses, but with a touch of British restraint, that make their routines smart but easy fun. Watching them is like sitting down for a beer with the two smartest members of a Shakespeare company after they’ve just finished an emotional rehearsal, and now they’re eager put that vocal dexterity to work for something more playful than impersonating an Elizabethan impersonating a Roman. And after an hour and forty-five minutes, they go away.

Michael Winterbottom has one of the finest film careers out there. It’s conceivable that one day his oeuvre (“Did I spell that right?”) will be compared to Woody Allen’s and Eric Rohmer’s in its scope and its focus, and his merits will be discussed alongside theirs. The problem is, all of his movies seem like they were shot in a garage. You get the uneasy feeling that you don’t have a permit to be there. The building blocks of his stories are the situations, not the images, and he is merely recording them and choosing selects for you.

The Trip was actually heavier on the scenery-whoring than on the food porn. Whenever I see gorgeous scenery for its own sake in a film, I suspect that the producers are doing the regional tourist board a favor in return for Brownie points with some film commission. Then again, why not? Why not thumb through a magazine article that records the wittiest repartee of two masters, and get lost in the photos in the Special Advertising Section called Veneto: Land of Dreams? Answer: No reason! I love it. It just might not be cinema. I can’t imagine ever watching it on TV and thinking how happy I would be if the screen were a hundred feet wide.

Sometime this fall I’ll sit down with The Trip To Italy, and laugh out loud. Not today, not with so much cinema calling me.


  1. I’m glad to read that you fell in love with THE TRIP, too. It made my “Favorite Movies of 2011” list. THE TRIP TO ITALY is more of the same–in a good way. But since they started out as TV shows–a friend sent me both series recently–there’s really no reason not to watch either on TV. “She was only sixteen years old …”

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