Tag: Steve Coogan

The Trip to Greece

Ah it’s good to be back. Here’s my first review for the NZ Herald since lockdown began. The Trip to Greece:

Verdict: Worth the trip despite having been there and seen that.

Early in The Trip to Greece, Rob Brydon fittingly quotes Aristotle on the virtues of imitation. Although the birthplace of classical western narratives might be a perfect setting for such quotes, it also serves to shield this film against critical flak for doing just that; imitating itself. The critics have a point, The Trip to Greece is fairly much identical to the previous three outings (set in England, Italy, and Spain). But for good reason. The formula works.

A travelogue of sorts, Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan (who play fictionalised version of themselves) saunter from tourist site to restaurant, back to tourist site, while comically casting out quick witticisms and well-read eloquent prose about their surroundings. It’s all rather idyllic and you do wonder at times if it is going anywhere beyond their conversations and observations. The plot, such that it is, is fairly scant and the thinnest of the four Trip movies. But you don’t go to see a movie like this for the plot.

The self-aware Brydon and Coogan know how to laugh at themselves and tease each other about their skewed level of success, occasionally flirting with serious topics such as their own mortality. The result is an insightfully funny and sometimes thought provoking look at their lives. However, if you’ve seen any of the previous Trip films and found their impersonations and pedantic squabbling to be annoying, then this movie won’t convert you.

Michael Winterbottom (A Mighty Heart), who has directed all four Trip movies, injects very little directorial flavour and settles, once again, on an observational approach, letting his two muses verbally run amock with what appears to be a loose script and plenty of ad-libbing. A surprisingly melancholic score does occasionally threaten to steer the film into more serious territory, and Coogan, who is perhaps more sombre than previous, looks to be the man to do it. But no. Brydon, Coogan, and Winterbottom appear to know what side their toast is buttered. Imitation is sometimes strangely comforting.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.

The Dinner

dinnerThe Dinner combines sophisticated cuisine with a stale burger patty in this adaptation which feels at odds with Herman Koch’s bestseller of the same name.  Having two previous European big-screen treatments — a Dutch film in 2013 and the Italian version in 2014, this American reworking certainly feels like a vegetable side that hasn’t been procured from the chef’s very own garden. 

A dinner is arranged at an exclusive restaurant by congressman Stan Lohman (Richard Gere) to discuss a few “salient” family issues.  Stan and his wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall) are joined by Stan’s pessimistically difficult brother Paul (Steve Coogan) and his long-suffering wife Claire (Laura Linney). There is an elephant in the room that requires urgent attention—their sons have been implicated in a heinous act of violence resulting in the death of a homeless woman. With careers on the line and family wounds bubbling to the surface, the Lohmans squabble and argue about how far they are prepared to go to protect the children they love.  

It’s a chamber-piece resembling Polanski’s Carnage and a similarly stage-like quality is exemplified by the decision to separate the film into five acts; each represented as a different course lovingly introduced in exquisitely pretentious detail by the waiter, Dylan (Michael Chernus).  It is an interesting structure, but somewhat superfluous to narrative requirements—the culinary subtext being a considerably disparate garnish for the film’s premise.

Director Oren Moverman (Love & Mercy) further complicates matters by explaining the Lohman’s tortured back story with flashbacks inserted throughout the five courses, which only serve to bloat and confuse a film already ripe with complications.

Despite the top-shelf cast The Dinner fails to deliver on the back of a well received novel, and gets bogged down in moral ambiguities rather than the dark satire and cynical focus that the book intended. Koch openly voiced such frustrations after the film’s European premiere in Berlin. The Dinner might rustle up a tasty morsel for some, but its awkward melange of flavours means most will send the meal back to the kitchen.

Read the review here.