Inherent in the movie “The Trip”, starring British actor Steve Coogan as himself and constantly indulging in self-pity about a life that lacks any objective sense of success in the movie business, are certain ironies that have cycled through television shows and advertising and are now making their way to the big screen. At times, “The Trip” is downright boring and hard to watch, but it seems less like a movie and more like a blueprint. Steve, sent throughout the country of England by the Observer to explore fine dining, is himself and hyper-real. As the movie opens, it appears to be a mockumentary in the style of “A Mighty Wind” or TV shows like “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation”. However, as it progresses you find that Steve is acutely unaware of the cameras in what has all the makings of a reality TV moment. There are no cuts to him discussing the trip or his annoyance with partner Rob Brydon in one-on-one interviews with the camera. Shots weave in and out of steady shots and shaky ones, blurring the lines further.
In a moment of surreal-ness, Steve ,who is again acting as himself yet unaware of being on camera (the first layer of irony), has a dream. The audience at first cannot know this. It seems impossible for us to invade his mind. Yet here we are on a deserted England street, a fan stopping him to have Steve sign a newspaper that says “Steve is a Cunt…Says Dad.” So now it seems, with a plot devilishly documentary-like, that we actually are in store for a movie that can break down the walls of documentaries.
From then on, dialogue occurs between Steve and Rob in typical reality show fashion. You get the idea most of it was not scripted, they were simply topics that Steve or Rob decided to run with. Slowly you see their character divulged, but still you aren’t sure if you think that because of the way in which the film has been cut. It becomes hammered home over time that Steve is a “struggling artist” and dramatic music plays when he is at his loneliest.
It’s a straight-forward movie with a simple name but the architecture points to a hyper-conscious realism in film. Movies have been slow to keep pace with TV in the past few years, but this movie seems to pick up the hint that reality is the new drama. In a world where all actions can and will be recorded, it is important for actors to convey that they know the reality on the ground and act accordingly.