The Trip came to Tuscaloosa tonight (and only tonight, is how art-house flicks work down here). An improvised drama about Steve Coogan going through the north of England touring nice restaurants and taking Rob Brydon with him. I’d never heard of him either, but apparently he’s what’s known in the UK as a television presenter.
Foremost, though, he’s an impressionist. He does Pacino, Burton, Hoffman, Connery, Woody Allen. The hits. But like also he can do Billy Connolly, which to me is nothing short of incredible.
Normally, a man standing on a stage and positing premises voiced by idiosyncratic celebs is often just the sort of thing that makes me want to stab venom into my eyeballs. Right? I know I’m not alone on this. It’s the contrived nature of the impression. The belabored setups, the exemption from context. The Trip knows this, too, and it does smart, subtle work of showing the way Brydon’s impressions pain everyone in their vicinity.
See especially Coogan’s mother near the film’s end. If she’s an actress her eyes deserve their own BAFTAs.
How The Trip turns impressions from agony into delight is by making them some kind of contest between Brydon and Coogan. You probably saw the Michael Caine clip that everyone posted on Facebook earlier this year, and while that scene is one of the best, it’s not the only such moment in the movie. Endlessly, these two are trying to one-up each other with certain voices, and with such quick back-and-forth it becomes narcotic. I’d spend another $7 to watch these two try to out-impress one another for two hours.
I know it’s not enough to say there’s something transformative about a well done impression. But with the impression’s transformative power The Trip finds much fun to be had. Just see the movie. Not necessarily for the accuracy of the impressions, but for the joy in them. The joy of other people.