“Ugh, I would hate to have dinner with these guys,” my girlfriend said 20 minutes into The Trip to Greece.
Stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are an acquired taste. If you go into The Trip to Greece cold, you may find them exhausting as they constantly compete in singing, performing impersonations and spitting out trivia. But if you’ve tagged along with these goobers for the past three films in The Trip series, you’ll likely find this entry the richest and most personal.
Once again playing semi-fictional versions of themselves, the British actors set sail for the Mediterranean, retracing Odysseus’s 10-year voyage home from Troy to Ithaca. This is a fitting journey for them given the fact that The Trip series has also run a decade, starting as a BBC sitcom in 2010.
Director Michael Winterbottom shows reverence for the setting and protagonists with his elegant aesthetic. Cuts to kitchen crews in action during the dining sequences also show an attention to detail and a respect for what happens behind the scenes of luxury experiences we take for granted.
Since most of us are cooped up at home right now, it’s a pleasure to vacation vicariously through Coogan and Brydon. You can practically feel the ocean spray as the waves crash onto the shore. It’s wonderfully refreshing. With its lovely vistas and fine-dining ventures, the film emerges as a comforting, bittersweet reminder of life pre-COVID-19.
Of course, much of the film’s humor lies in how the two world travelers still find ways to ratchet up tension against relaxing backdrops. They prey upon each other’s insecurities. A recurring joke finds Coogan bringing up his seven BAFTAs to shut up Brydon and assert dominance over him. When Coogan rolls his eyes at Brydon’s trademark “small man in a box” voice, you can tell he’s secretly consumed with envy.
These films rank among the clearest cinematic confirmations of the idea that “wherever you go, there you are.” This one is particularly effective in conveying the hard truth that you can’t escape life’s darker sides even when you’re soaking up the sun. One of the film’s most poignant scenes finds Coogan receiving a devastating phone call while walking along a beautiful, sun-kissed beach.
Seamlessly juggling humor and heartache, Coogan delivers one of the best performances of his career. Brydon taps into an internalized sense of tragedy, portraying himself as the kind of comic-relief friend who can’t quite handle sad news but still provides support, as quiet as it may be.
For many, watching any of The Trip films may feel like eavesdropping on an inside joke. I can see why some viewers would find these movies alienating and off-putting. I couldn’t exactly disagree when my girlfriend muttered, “God, these guys are so annoying.” But I have a soft spot for them. The release of each new film feels like a warm reunion. I’m sad to hear that this film marks the final destination, but I’ve appreciated the laughs and tears along the way.