The Trip to Greece
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon's final fine-dining fling brings familiar warmth and palpable pathos
If your heart sank when Rob Brydon shared the location of this fourth and apparently final Trip on Twitter last summer, it’d be entirely understandable.
Neither The Trip to Italy nor The Trip to Spain came close to the masterful heights of the original six-restaurant jaunt around the Lake District, and chief among the myriad reasons why were the settings themselves. Where the bleak beauty of the Cumbrian countryside was rich with pathetic fallacy, perfectly framing the middle-aged melancholy lurking beneath the bickering, the sunny splendour of Amalfi and Andalusia didn't complement the pathos at the heart of proceedings anything like as profoundly.
Any fourth instalment always felt as if it’d need to involve a hitting of the reset button to match the first, which is now a decade old – not least because of the bizarre sticky end that Steve Coogan seemingly met with at the end of the last one. Greece was never going to provide that kind of left turn in the same way that Ireland or the US might have, but as much as the vistas are stunning and the summer is scorching, the sense of sadness is inexorable this time around.
Personal tragedy and a relationship crossroads loom for Coogan throughout, while Brydon appears to be tentatively rebuilding his marriage, and the combined effect of both is that the duo no longer strain to mask just how much they enjoy each other’s company, or how glad they are of a distraction.
Accordingly, the pseudo-intellectual jousting over poetry and history that bogged down the Italian and Spanish journeys is pared back. Much like Winterbottom and Coogan’s other recent Greek collaboration, Greed, there’s a subtle and slightly muddled political undercurrent nodding to the country’s role in the Middle Eastern migrant crisis. For the most part, though, it’s the wonderfully warm chemistry between the pair that’s front and centre, and it both reinvigorates the familiar impressions – Anthony Hopkins and Mick Jagger return, as do Michaels Caine and Parkinson – and makes the fresh ones all the more endearing.
Ray Winstone as Henry VIII is the standout on that front: "if that Anne Boleyn dicks me about, I’ll chop her fackin’ head off”. Only the obligatory episode with Claire the PA and Yolanda the photographer wears thin; the central twosome's pathetic competition for female attention once again demonstrates their fragile masculinity, without offering any fresh insights into it. Otherwise, this is a redemptive ending for The Trip – a bittersweet, and very funny, treatise on ageing and the impermanence of escapism.
The Trip to Greece is streaming now on Sky/Now TV