I don't really write a lot of movie reviews here (unless you count raving about Disney cartoons), but there is a film out that you have to see: The Trip (watch the trailer here).
It's in limited release - why? because it's British? - so you won't find it at Hoyts or most Village Cinemas, but you can find it at the delightful Rivoli in Camberwell Junction, yay!
The Trip was originally made as a six-episode series on the BBC. In fact, the very same footage was used, but edited more tightly. This is a good thing, because the series was heavily improvised by the two main performers (Steve Coogan as Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as Rob Brydon).
Coogan and Brydon are a pair of successful comedians, both household names in Britain. In the film, the two are travelling in the north of England, reviewing a series of restaurants. Coogan originally planned the trip as a romantic outing with his American girlfriend, but things have gone sour. So Coogan reluctantly invites Brydon. Cue a barrage of comic sparring, as the two old friends alternate between being comically in-tune, then psychically at-odds with one another.
Both men are brilliant comedians, and they make a great comic match, but their careers and their worldviews are profoundly different. Since his early TV success in the '90s, Coogan has been featured in plenty of tabloids, known for living somewhat of a rockstar social life. On the other hand, since those successes his career has diverged into more artistic territory with critically acclaimed film roles firmly outside of the mainstream. Brydon, on the other hand, has channeled his comedy via more a traditional route of TV roles, standup and TV comedy panels (QI, anyone?). He is happily married with several children.
The film presents an almost alpha-beta dynamic between them - Brydon is asked at one point, "Are you his assistant?" But Brydon is unconcerned with going unrecognised. He is the unsensational one; a family man who employs the stuttering voice of Hugh Grant to have nightly phone sex with his wife. Coogan's dreams are grander. His relationships are complex, broken but not lost. He views his career with more ambition, and more disappointment.
The comedy in this film is organic, borne out of a genuine relationship between two very different comic artists and friends. I wonder how much of the melancholy comes from the same place. I can tell you that the film's soundtrack contains a piano rendition of this theme (and that I recognised it, because I am awesome).
The Trip is a question to creative people - to all people, really: would you rather a career filled with evanescent moments of profound success; or one of consistency, of gradual ascension, balance, but never, perhaps, a place in the sun?