Monday, September 8, 2014

The Trip to Italy [2014]

MPAA (NR would be PG-13)  ChicagoTribune (3 1/2 Stars) (3 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review

The Trip to Italy [2014] (screenplay and directed by Michael Winterbottom) played this past spring at Chicago's 17th EU Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chciago.  More recently (late-August/early-Sept 2014), it has been released/playing through the "Landmark Century" theater chain in the United States and is also available for streaming on iTunes.

What to say of the film? 

First, I pointedly didn't see the film when it played at Chicago's EU Film Festival because I was wondering "Why see a British film about two Brits going down to Italy when there are several very good Italian films made by Italians about Italy playing at the same said festival..."  I also remember that Brits haven't had necessarily a good reputation in Italy (at least among older Italians), because they have had a reputation of approaching Italy with a certain "The sun still doesn't set on Our Empire" arrogance (think Tea With Mussolini [1999]...).  (Seriously, during my three years as an American seminarian in Italy, I heard from countless Italian Servites and parishioners: "Well at least you Americans are not British."  Italy and Britain were, of course, on opposite sides of a war (WW II...).  And Britain and the various states of Italy were also on opposite sides of centuries of religious wars.  The British would pride themselves for being honest, if also admit that their food was generally lousy and that they themselves were traditionally often quite cold as people.  The Italians would pride themselves on their food, warmth and style, even as they would admit that "financial clarity" was never exactly "a strength" in Italy (and especially "in the South..." ;-) ).   So seeing a British film about a "trip to Italy" ... in 2014 ... seemed to me somewhat "retro-imperialistic."  Again, why not just let Italians present themselves ...

That said, the film could really be entitled "A Trip to simply Somewhere..." (and Italy seemed to be a nice/worthy place to go) as the film was intended as a sequel to the film The Trip [2010], both films (The Trip [2010] and The Trip to Italy [2014]) actually condensed versions of a British sitcom television series featuring two British actors Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden playing lightly fictionalized versions of themselves doing in the first case a restaurant tour of Northern England and in the current case a similar restaurant tour of largely (Mediterranean) coastal Italy.   In both cases, the locations and even the food, as beautiful/tasty/picturesque as they were, were largely irrelevant to the often hilarious conversations between them.

For these are two _very talented_ and THANKFULLY SELF-EFFACING actors, who let loose, spend two nearly hours, poking fun at themselves, their profession and other actors, even as they eat REALLY GOOD FOOD and STAY AT SOME OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES IMAGINABLE.  That they do poke, laugh-out-loud, fun at themselves (and the "perks" that come with being "rich and famous" ...) makes the film not only bearable but honestly worthy of a thumbs-up (or two ;-). 

Honestly, watching them eat splendidly prepared calamari and linguini (and many other dishes that I'd honestly not have the vocabulary for, even if I did spend three years out there in Italy...) while going through rapid-fire impressions of Dark Knight Rises [2012] characters played by Michael Caine, Tom Hardy and Christian Bale or through everyone of the Bond actors (Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, etc ...) is priceless. 

So despite my initial reservations (back in March), I honestly have to say that this film was a blast.  And the scenery was beautiful as well.  Good job ;-).

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