Food: Careers and Bonds
By Tori Placentra
Set in modern day England, The Trip focuses on two actors, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, who, though they share a profession and have known each other for sometime, seem to share little else. The two are forced to spend time together when Steve’s girlfriend cancels on a food tour of northern England. After failing to acquire any other travel companion, Steve asks Rob to join him, pitching it as a job opportunity writing for The Observer. Eventually, womanizer Coogan and family focused Brydon come to appreciate one another as they consume some of England’s finest food while constantly try to “one-up” the other with their impressions, which are as carefully crafted as the food they are being served. With this is mind, the film is just as much a film about craft as it is about the role food in the development of interpersonal relationships.
As the two sit down at the first restaurant, it is clear that neither of them is a food connoisseur – Steve refers to his soup as “soup-y” and “tomato-y.” At almost every restaurant they visit, shots of the food preparation are juxtaposed with shots of Steve and Rob conversing over the food. Often the conversations between are simply a series of escalating impressions of actors like Sean Connery and Michael Cane, the lane same line repeated with slightly different inflections. Though the kitchen scenes are often chaotic, they speak to the intricate and subtle processes of cooking. The very next shot would depict Steve and Rob eating the dish while arguing over the accuracies of their impressions – a process that is equally subtle, and perhaps hectic, as the food preparation. This juxtaposition of the high stakes cooking with the impressions serves to comment on the importance of honing one’s craft. Though Steve and Rob may not have refined pallets for foie gras, they have refined senses for comedic timing.
Between mouthfuls of decadent food and their attempts to outdo one another, Steve and Rob manage to have some genuine conversations about family and relationships, coming to appreciate each other outside of the professional realm. One way that the film shows the evolving relationship between Steve and Rob is through spacing. The first meal they share together on the trip, they sit across from each other at a large table, Steve leans away from the table mostly, and their conversation is viewed through crosscutting, never showing the two in the same frame. One of the last meals they share together on trip (Figure 1), the two sit at a smaller table, feed each other bites of food, and shots include both of them in the same frame. By the end of the film, Steve and Rob are closer both physically and emotionally. The once work and romance driven Steve, takes a leaf out of Rob’s book, and begins to make decisions with more concern for his family, especially his son. This decision would have been much less likely to occur without the evolution of Steve’s relationship with Rob, which would not have been possible without the help of carefully crafted food.
The Trip. Dir. Michael Winterbottom. Prod. Andrew Eaton and Melissa Parmenter. Perf. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Baby Cow Productions. 2010.