Who's In It: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Claire Keelan, Margo Stilley, Kerry Shale
The Basics: Steve Coogan plays himself in this film, and from the get-go paints a self-portrait as a man on the edge. Britain's Observer has paid him to go review famous restaurants, and he originally sees this as an opportunity to reconnect with his American lady love Mischa (Stilley). As the film opens, we learn that Mischa isn't going, and Steve has no one to turn to but his annoying friend Rob (Brydon). Together, they tour the countryside doing impressions, eating food, and occasionally getting some lovin'. Then...they go home.
What's the Deal: If you're going to watch anyone just drive, eat, and talk, it should be Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, as they have proven themselves hilarious and talented. If they're directed by Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People), even better. However, this movie isn't a slam dunk. Not all road trip movies include crazy Andy Dick cameos and beer bongs, but this one felt a little too repetitive to make a real impact. It flirted with drama when Steve Coogan was alone, uncertain about his career and lack of superstardom (which he usually tried to forget with sex). Together, the monotony and intimacy in the film reflected what I imagine life must be really like for working actors--but it didn't make for the world's most exciting film.
Film For Foodies: The whole purpose of the trip was to review transcendent dining experiences, and I was forced to sit through this without having eaten a proper meal beforehand. The food looks delectable, and Steve and Rob's reactions are worth watching. Sometimes, the food "tastes of a childhood garden," other times, you can see them wolfing down lamb like madmen. It was a nice reminder that food doesn't just have to be eaten out of necessity--it can be an entire experience. And also, waiters in fancy restaurants seem more like talk show hosts. "I'm John, and today we'll be encountering foie de gras after these messages."
The Best Part: Ultimately, I think my problem with this film was that it was too close to real life. I am used to my British entertainment packing on the sarcasm and dry humor, and this movie relied too heavily upon the men's dueling impressions and shots of food to really be that fun/introspective/insightful. As is the case with most British stuff, it's best when it goes into uncomfortable situations (like talking about how jealous they are of Beautiful Boy's Michael Sheen). The best scene in the whole film was at Bolton Abbey, and Steve was giving a eulogy for Rob. It was sweet and full of tension all at the same time. I wish the whole movie had been that interesting.