April 14, 2014,
Posted by Richard in
Film & TV, Reviews
Four years after their first foody adventure, Michael Winterbottom has persuaded Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon to swap Coleridge, Wordsworth and the Yorkshire Dales for Bryon, Shelley and a slice of Italy. Here are five reasons why we’re loving series two, The Trip to Italy:
1. The impressions are back
Caine, Moore and Bennett have once again joined us and are glorious, but Coogan’s Morrissey was a particular highlight of episode one. Also, Brydon’s faultless generic newsreader was used to spectacular effect in episode two: ‘The actor and comedian Steve Coogan…’
2. The comic chemistry is even sharper
Moments in life where you find yourself helpless with laughter are, more often than not, when you are with friends and are sharing a naturally hilarious ‘you had to be there’ episode. With Coogan and Brydon having such brilliant comic chemistry, their riffs have that freewheeling, joyously spontaneous and organic quality which makes it feel like you’re there with them, sharing one of those moments yourself.
3. The blurring of fact and fiction
In series one the dramatic conceit was that Coogan was having issues juggling his girlfriend, children and acting ambitions. In Italy, whilst there does appear to be some issues with Pathology, Coogan’s drama which supposedly saw him working in LA, he seems largely content. Brydon, on the other hand, (if episode two is anything to go by) is having a bit of a midlife crisis. In series one he would be doing his Hugh Grant impression down the phone to his wife, in episode two this series their phone conversation is forced, and Brydon ends up flirting with a woman he meets on a boat trip, giving her his best Grant instead. This dramatic element is one of the reasons the show works so well. Without the serious side the whole thing would verge too much into self-indulgence, but these hints at something darker and troubling provide the backbone of the show, and gives that light and shade.
4. It’s easy on the eye
Michael Winterbottom has some eye for beautiful scenery. In season one it was the rolling English hills; now we are transported to the exquisite Italian coast. Coogan and Brydon’s Michael Hopkins is even more enjoyable with them not even in shot, just the boat rolling in the waves with the spectacular cliffs in the background.
5. The music and poetry
One of the great things about the show is that one minute the two are in full Cane mode, laughing and generally having a good time – then after a few glasses of wine they become more reflective. Aging seems to be the themes this time round, as they muse on how they’ll be remembered. Of course this melancholia will be exaggerated somewhat, but Michael Nyman’s piano is always a welcome extra touch. Add to that a sprinkling of Shelley:
My soul is an enchanted boat, / Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float / Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing;
and even though it’s recited in Anthony Hopkins’ voice, it’s really quite stirring.
So there we have it. Two blokes larking around eating and drinking and doing funny voices – and we could watch it for hours.