When I sat down to watch The Trip, I expected to laugh. And while there were several scenes that did have me laughing to the point of tears, I was surprised that what I liked most about this movie was the depth of the dramatic moments hidden beneath a quirky road-trip comedy.
The more I think about this movie, the more I appreciate just how subtly the dramatic story was woven into the comedy. American comedies seem to hit you over the head with these tent-pole dramatic moments. Okay, here’s the big scene where the two characters argue and “break up.” Okay, here’s the big scene where the irresponsible and selfish main character finally does something meaningful. Ugh.
Instead, in The Trip we get little moments like Steve’s jealous phone calls to his girlfriend, Rob’s attempts for connection with his wife that are hidden behind one too many jokes, Steve practicing Rob’s “small man in a box” voice in the bathroom mirror, Steve’s sarcastic fake eulogy for Rob that goes just a little farther than funny to become actual insult. After seeing this movie only once, I remember these small dramatic moments just as well as the big comedy moments.
On the surface it seems like nothing happens in The Trip. Two reluctant “odd couple” friends travel the British countryside eating in restaurants and trying to impress each other with funny impressions. But by the end you realize that each has also been doing an impression of himself, playing at a life he knows very well because he’s afraid to stray too far outside that box.
It’s interesting to note that Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are playing “themselves” in the movie, not as in a documentary, but using what we know about them (which in my case wasn’t much and I still enjoyed the movie a lot) as background for the story. This adds an engaging layer of subtext (intentional or not) to this theme of “playing at roles” in one’s life.