While the multiplexes have their Marvel movies and its universe, the art house has the universe of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as directed by Michael Winterbottom. The Trip series (The Trip to Italy makes no apologies for being a sequel — A film review) of fancy dining, road tripping and witty banter continues for the two beloved British comedians with The Trip to Spain. These are not grand adventure stories, but they are often funny, down-to-earth escapades featuring middle-aged men playing versions of their celebrity selves who struggle to appreciate their lot in life with a sort of graceful imperfection that make them relatable. This time, the duo set off to Spain in Coogan’s Range Rover. An early example of the trials ahead is Steve’s lack of urgency to get to the ferry on time. “Living your life on the edge by getting to a ferry later,” notes Rob with little concern.
Rob of course knows Steve well, and the comfort he has with his “edgy living” is demonstrative of their mutual understanding and good humor toward one another, but there is also a deeper crux to their relationship, which features a one-upmanship between them. The film wastes no time revealing this. After the retire to their cabins on the ferry, Steve vomits into the toilet. Meanwhile, Rob studies his travel guide. The next morning, when asked by Rob how he slept, Steve says, “like a baby,” emphasizing the comfort from the ferry’s gentle rocking. Then, Rob shares some knowledge of Spain. When Steve asks where he got that from, Rob declares, “Just one of the things I picked up along the way.”
While it presents a complex friendship with humor and a touch of cynicism, The Trip to Spain walks the edge of its own self-awareness as a sequel. At their first posh meal in Spain, Steve talks about making a sequel to some movie — maybe even a trilogy. Rob challenges the similarities in plot before a powerful rainstorm comes through to disrupt their lunch. The scene, like many in the movie, ends in a brief montage that captures the mundane quality of the trip. Water bubbles up from a street drain and a man does the best he can with a broken umbrella. These small, real moments punctuate many longer scenes to support the film’s atmosphere, which both glamorizes their travel to unfamiliar parts of the world while capturing a natural yet charming exoticism.
The pleasures in this film by now can be found in a familiarity with the schemata of the two previous trips these two shared, but can also stand alone as examinations of the First World problems of these well-off men, one a family man, the other struggling with his broken family and past. The meals they indulge in are once again inter-cut between the grind of real kitchen workers, the formality of servers presenting the dishes to the diners, and the humor of the pair’s banter between the delights in the palate that the two protagonists indulge in. There are new celebrity impersonations at the tables and even a reference to David Bowie’s passing that stays true to these characters’ concern for relevance and recognition for their work in their pop culture world. Like the Before Trilogy (Film review: ‘Before Midnight’ offers original glimpse of love evolved) before it, it’s a friendship that’s delicious to revisit for its humanity. Instead of romance between opposite sexes, these are heterosexual men whose rivalries are as important to bonding them as are their shared passions and insecurities.
The Trip to Spain runs 111 minutes, is in English and Spanish and is not rated. It opens in our Miami area at MDC’s Tower Theater, O Cinema Miami Beach and the Landmark at Merrick Park on Friday, Aug. 25. Further north, in Broward County, it opens at the Classic Gateway Theatre and Cinema Paradiso Hollywood. Then, on Friday, Sept. 1, it comes to the Miami Beach Cinematheque and Tropic Cinema/Key West. Finally, on Sept. 8, it will play at the Cosford Cinema on the Coral Gables campus of the University of Miami. IFC Films sent us a DVD screener for the purpose of this review.