Director : Michael Winterbottom
Starring : Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon
Running Time : 107 minutes
DVD Release Date : Out Now
‘Two friends….One trip….10 Restaurants…..and the Journey of a Lifetime’
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon star as themselves in this very British comedy. Coogan is asked by The Observer (a British newspaper, published on Sundays) to review 10 of the country’s finest Northern restaurants. Nobody else, including his girlfriend, wants to go with him so he asks Brydon. And off they go….
I immediately recognized both Coogan and Brydon but could not quite place them. As it turns out, they are well-known British actors with long, varied resumes as both actors and writers, writing mostly comedy shows for themselves. They work together quite a lot.
The movie begins in London with scenes of freeways and traffic and buildings as far as the eye can see. As they venture north, this urban jungle is replaced by scenes of breathtaking beauty. When I think of England, right or wrong, I think of 2 things….either crowded, industrialised cities or miles and miles of rolling lush, green hills. This is different.
These fields are golden and sunny, the roads long and winding between small walls of stone or hedges. There are certainly days of rain and mist and clouds but it’s the colours that grabbed my attention. Wide shots of snow covered mountain ranges as the car winds over the road below. Perhaps it was Autumn during filming or England is as dry as Australia is wet the last few years. Or maybe the Director drained some of the green colour during editing. I have no idea, but what I do know is that the scenes of rural England in this movie are extraordinary. Just gorgeous.
One amusingly ironic scene involves Coogan trudging for what seems a very long time up a mountain in the middle of nowhere to get mobile phone reception so he can call his Agent and then his girlfriend. Yes, in that order.
At the start, as the two travel between towns, the banter in the car is generally light, focused mainly on Coogan’s almost obsessive need to plot the day’s journey on maps. No GPS…..fond childhood memories and all that. The towns they visit, with their centuries old buildings, are just as visually beautiful as the surrounding scenery.
As the week progresses, the banter becomes more involved. A lengthy discussion of why battles begin at dawn and not at 9.30(ish) is an absolute delight.
The meals served in each restaurant, with all the accompanying deference and concern you would associate with knowing a food reviewer was in your establishment, is so authentic I tried to research if it was real. I mean of course the meals are real, but the hovering maître de reporting back to the seemingly nonchalant….but plating with the greatest of care… chef, that was the authentic part. I couldn’t find out but it seemed very real to me.
During the meals is where the fun is. Coogan and Brydon trade impressions of famous people, mainly actors, to great effect. The argument over the exact nasal ratio employed by a young vs older Michael Caine is hysterically funny. He can get very nasally indeed! The oft repeated line of ‘you were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’ is a Michael Caine quote from the movie The Italian Job (a great movie….both versions….so get thee to a video store!)
The impressions of people including Caine, James Bond/Sean Connery and Al Pacino are as funny as they are absurd. They compete with each other, critique each other and annoy each other. And it’s all great fun to watch.
During the course of the movie, Coogan and Brydon venture out on foot into the towns and surrounding districts. Sometimes they banter, sometimes they do impressions, sometimes we get some information about the formation of the mountains 400 million years ago. You never know and it really keeps you interested.
As I said at the beginning, this is a very British comedy. It’s comedy lies in the absurd. Oh did I mention that Coogan, who is supposed to be a food reviewer, pays little to no attention to the meals. It transpires that it is Mischa, his girlfriend, who is the real foodie. So Coogan is far more interested in what ‘Sean Connery’ has to say about pigeon than in the pigeon itself. Like I said…..the humour is in the absurd.
British humour such as this, is not side splitting, tears rolling down the cheek humour but subtle character humour. It is not to everyone’s taste but I do urge you to see this movie. Actually, watch it twice. I did. I found I enjoyed it far more the second time as I could just settle in and listen.
I wonder what Michael Caine would make of it all….