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Review: 'The Trip to Greece' an 'Odyssey' of Its Own

by Michael  Cox
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Aug 25, 2020
Review: 'The Trip to Greece' an 'Odyssey' of Its Own

For those who have never heard of "The Trip" franchise, it's basically a travelogue with a particular emphasis on cuisine—like the ones we fill entire networks with in the United States, food and travel porn, hosted by witty and charming people. But unlike the reality television hosted by celebrity chefs and culinary bad boys in this country, this BBC Two television series directed by Michael Winterbottom concentrates less on the food and more on the reality.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictionalized versions of themselves, conceded caricatures of their own fragile egos. Though "The Trip" is probably best known as a television show in Europe, in the states we know it as a quartet of feature length films, each season condensed to a palatable 100 minutes or so.

In each film/season of the show, Coogan and Brydon travel to a country in Europe, tour restaurants and visit popular destinations. While the camera pays careful attention to landscapes and food, the celebrities concentrate on each themselves—joking around, trying to one-up each other with their impersonation skills, and generally enjoying and annoying each other.

The setup for each season/feature is that one of them has been commissioned by a newspaper to do a restaurant tour and the other is tagging along. This time it's "The Trip to Greece," and here Rob and Steve set off on a restaurant tour that follows the path of the second oldest piece of extant Western literature, Homer's "The Odyssey."

Because the conversations are largely improvised, they have a genuine quality, an exaggeration of real life. We are actually watching two men wrestling for the alpha position and doing it by flaunting the ups and downs of their own personal lives and careers. The lines of reality are intentionally blurred. These may be fictional people in a fictional setup, but the self-referential arguments, the competitive banter, the narcissism and the histrionics come from an authentic place.

Reality television in the United States is filled with loud music, quick editing, super titles, graphics flying on and off the screen, and of course product placement. But this metafictional mélange of reality TV often fails to simply provide a close up of the food. Instead, we watch a playful battle of the wills that becomes more and more testy. Rob calls home, wishing he could be with his family, and Steve has a little casual sex, wishing he could have more of it.

Every trip comes to an end. Hopes become headaches, then experiences, and eventually memories. And there's always a kind of wistfulness when it's over.


"The Trip to Greece"
Blu-ray $19.98
www.ifcfilms.com

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