Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are two hilarious individuals who play off each other so well it only makes sense Michael Winterbottom would put them together for a mockumentary. With the two the comedy was automatic and The Trip is full of quick banter and wit which Steve and Rob make in consistent supply. Watching them frustrate one another or try to one up the other is a bottomless source of comedy. There was a great spontaneity with the improv that made their interactions feel real and the humor that much more authentic. The dueling Michael Caine impressions kept cracking me up. The comedy was never in question though. All you have to do is put to two in a room and roll a camera and you have comedy. The trickier thing was going to be adding some pathos and just as simply as the comedy came from within so did the pathos. Despite both starting as comedy actors in television their careers and lifes are completely different. Steve has done some great work and broaden his horizons in Hollywood but he has struggled with personal demons and has a desperate need to be taken seriously as an actor. He so badly wants to work with auteurs and produce great art. Rob on the other hand stayed working in television and while he doesn't have the filmography that Steve has, he has a happy and content life. I like how the film doesn't show that Rob's career station isn't the fact he isn't smart or talented enough, rather that he enjoys making people laugh and entertaining them. This provides a very solid and interesting character arc throughout The Trip.
The Trip has it's origins as a TV series that was edited down which Michael Winterbottom did a good job of turning into a strong film that stands on it's own. It does maintain too much of it's compartmentalized format though which makes some parts feel a bit choppy as well as the occasional segment forced in which hurts the flow at times. Winterbottom is a talented director though and despite being charged to pretty much capture Steve and Rob being themselves he uses the premise as an opportunity to incorporate some really beautiful scenery into the fabric of the film. The Trip does utilize a fair amount of familiarity of Steve and Rob as well as some British cultural references. It is not required to enjoy the film and you by no means need to be an expert, but I did find understanding some of the references and being aware of the two men and their careers made the film more satisfying. The Trip may seem simple but it really was a delicate balancing act. Too much comedy and it under serves the pathos, too much pathos and it ends up being self-indulgent. It is the films ability to refuse to be anchored in one camp that makes The Trip work so well. They didn't make a "comedy" or "drama", they made a film about these two men who's persona provides the pathos and the ties that bind them together provides the comedy.